By Barb Gorman, Communication Specialist
If you have ever been a caregiver for an extended period of time, you may be able to recall, quite readily, the stresses inherent in that role. Fatigue, financial problems, depression, guilt, job strain, worry and energy loss are just a few of the emotions and issues that can face this extraordinary group of “givers.” All too often they put the needs of their loved one above their own, causing further imbalance and opening the door for caregiver burnout to set in.
As with many facets of life, being proactive instead of reactive pays dividends especially when you consider the incredible costs associated with reaching the level of burnout. It will also serve you to remember that in your lifetime you might be a caregiver to multiple people (parents, spouse or partner, child and friends) so learning coping skills early on will allow you to support your loved ones while you honor and care for yourself. Staying on top of symptoms, or better yet, not letting them develop, will bring a peace and joy to your life and better equip you to handle the many stresses of caregiving. Yet, at times inevitably all caregivers are likely to find themselves dancing around the flames of burnout.
Melinda Smith, M.A., and Gina Kemp, M.A., wrote a very valuable article for those struggling to bounce back from the beginning stages of burnout. The article entitled Caregiver Stress & Burnout written for Helpguide.org details the warning signs of caregiver burnout and suggests remedies to stay on top of the curve. The following are tips excerpted from the article. To view it in its entirety click here.
Tip 1: Ask for help
Say “yes” when someone offers assistance. Don’t be shy about accepting help. Let them feel good about supporting you. It’s smart to have a list ready of small tasks that others could easily take care of, such as picking up groceries or driving your loved one to an appointment.
Tip 2: Give yourself a break
Make yourself laugh. Laughter is an excellent antidote to stress—and a little goes a long way. Read a funny book, watch a comedy, or call a friend who makes you laugh. And whenever you can, try to find the humor in everyday situations.
Tip 3: Practice acceptance
Avoid tunnel vision. Don’t let caregiving take over your whole life. It’s easier to accept a difficult situation when there are other areas of your life that are rewarding. Invest in things that give you meaning and purpose—whether it’s your family, church, a favorite hobby, or your career.
Tip 4: Take care of your health
Exercise. When you’re stressed and tired, the last thing you feel like doing is exercising. But you’ll feel better afterwards. Exercise is a powerful stress reliever and mood enhancer. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes on most days. When you exercise regularly, you’ll also find it boosts your energy level and helps you fight fatigue.