5 Ways to Practice Self-Care When You Have Caregiver Burnout
Taking care of others or someone you love can be extremely rewarding. From the bond you build to the comfort and growth you witness while doing so.
However, there can come a time when the person giving the care needs to be on the receiving end as well.
According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP Public Policy Institute, in 2015, an estimated 43.5 million American adults were unpaid caregivers. 40% of caretakers felt emotionally stressed, almost 20% said it caused financial problems, and about 20% felt physically strained.
All these symptoms can lead to a feeling of helplessness and eventual burnout.
“Helplessness is a strong trigger for burnout because it tends to stifle an individual’s sense of agency and it can make a person feel like their efforts no longer hold any real value or meaning,” Sara Kuburić, a psychotherapist, tells Shine.
Common Signs of Caregiver Burnout
When you're physically and emotionally invested in the wellbeing of others, it’s easy to lose sight of yourself in the process.
Kuburić goes on to say that the self-check-in process as a caregiver should be continuous, but this can often be easier said than done.
If you’re beginning to feel a little off and can’t quite put your finger on if it is indeed burnout or not, she shares some common signs:
●︎ Emotional, mental and physical exhaustion
●︎ Depersonalization, which is the feeling of observing oneself from outside one’s body or having a sense that one’s surroundings aren't real
●︎ Feeling irritable, hopeless, or helpless
●︎ Withdrawal from friends and family
●︎ Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
●︎ Change in mood (ex. feeling sad)
●︎ Change is sleep patterns
●︎ Neglecting one’s own needs
●︎ Weakened immune system
According to Kuburić, along with these symptoms, some less obvious signs to keep in mind are if caregiving duties are beginning to feel forced or are driven by obligation and self-sacrifice.
We all have moments where we lose motivation in our day-to-day routine, but if things persist it may be time to take a step back.
How to Feel More Empowered
A surefire way to combat the sense of helplessness associated with burnout is through empowerment.
Being a caregiver is a vital role in the lives of others, and for those in this position it’s easy to lose sight of that.
To boost a sense of pride and accomplishment in your role as a caregiver, Kuburić shares these five tips:
1. Set clear expectations and boundaries related to your role
Outline your responsibilities and be strict about sticking to them from the beginning.
If things sway along the way, it’s OK to communicate your needs and manage expectations.
2. Continually connect to the value and meaning you place on your help
What you’re doing is impactful, so be sure to make note of your “why” and the significance of your role in taking care of this person.
3. Practice acceptance of what is
It’s important to understand that although you are the caregiver, not everything is in your control—and that’s OK.
Doing the best you can is always good enough.
4. Celebrate your efforts
No accomplishment is insignificant, celebrate your small wins!
If the person you’re taking care of has made some progress, pat yourself on the back for being there. Congratulate yourself for meeting any goals or expectations in a given day, week, or month.
5. Practicing gratitude
Every day is different but taking a moment to zero in on what went well and leaning into self-gratitude can help boost confidence and motivation to keep going.
If you're about to become a caregiver: Be intentional
If you’re considering or in the early stages of being a caregiver, it’s important to be intentional with your decision to do so. This can be beneficial in alleviating any stress in the long run.
Before taking that step, Kuburić suggests identifying any core beliefs relevant to caregiving, by asking yourself these questions:
●︎ Do you believe your role is to heal and alleviate suffering, or to be a witness to someone else’s life?
●︎ Do you believe that you deserve to prioritize their needs over the needs of others?
●︎ Do you give yourself permission to walk away if it gets too difficult?
That last note is an important one: We often feel once we’ve made a commitment that despite our own best interest, we need to stick to it. But it’s critical to keep in mind that your wellbeing is of the utmost importance and your own life should be taken into account as well.
“For a caregiver, it could be helpful to have a clear understanding of their identity outside of the caregiving role," Kuburić says. "This can be achieved by actively pursuing self-care and a life that is balanced."
A phrase being used around the Shine HQ lately is: Go Big and Go Home. Give what you can, when you can, then take time to recharge your battery so you can truly offer your best care.
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