by Michael Bloom~
Caregivers are to be admired and respected for all they do and sacrifice to support their loved ones. Sadly, overtired caregivers who do not seek support to deal head-on with burnout and stress can be susceptible to depression, serious illness, or even early death. By ignoring or refusing to take the time to seek support to deal with their overwhelming needs, thoughts, and feelings, caregivers can also put their families at risk.
It is such a selfless choice to serve as a caregiver who is dealing with the complex and frightening medical and emotional issues of a loved one. Although the patient is the one that directly experiences the physical and emotional pain throughout treatment, the caregiver cringes with every moan of their family member and every troubling word of the doctor, leaving them feeling sad and helpless much of the time. No wonder caregivers experience high levels of stress and are at risk for burnout.
Caregiving Burnout can be defined as a noticeable decline in attitude and energy. While burnout may not be noticeable to the caregiver, it can be very evident to friends and family members, especially the loved one receiving support.
Some of the symptoms may include:
- Feelings of depression.
- A sense of ongoing and constant fatigue.
- Decreasing interest in work.
- Withdrawal from friends and other social contacts.
- Increase in use of alcohol and drugs.
- Change in eating patterns.
- Feelings of helplessness.
Caregivers often ignore these symptoms and keep pushing forward out of dedication to their loved ones and a belief that they do not have the luxury to slow down or ask for help. Other caregivers recognize that they are exhausted, stressed, and on the brink of burnout but do not know how to get relief.
As children, we are not typically taught ways to ease our minds and cope with stress. We are provided with instructions and supported to complete certain routine hygiene activities, such as tooth brushing. We learn that to avoid cavities and unwanted trips to the dentist, that it is important to keep our teeth clean. We also engage in many other routine activities to keep our physical bodies as healthy as possible.
Even with the inanimate possessions in our lives, we recognize the need for routine maintenance to keep things running. We run virus scans on our computers. We take our automobiles in for oil changes and routine maintenance to keep them running smoothly. If a check engine light comes on, we take the vehicle in to see the mechanic to diagnose and fix the problem.
Unfortunately, there is no gauge or warning sign that goes off in our heads to tell us that it is time to cleanse ourselves of stress. That is why it is important to determine activities that can specifically work for you to restore balance and avoid burnout. Otherwise, prolonged and unmanaged stress will lead to caregiver toast and a very miserable family situation.
Caregivers can best support themselves and their loved ones by devoting a little bit of time to care for themselves. Self-care is not selfish. Getting the caregiver to engage in needed respite activities usually involves a lot of encouragement and the development of an implementable self-care plan.
A great place for caregivers to start is to assess their current level of burnout risk so they can determine the factors personally driving their stress and seek the supports that can quickly recharge their caregiving energy. Primary care physicians, clergy, life coaches, and therapists are excellent resources. If you wish to take the immediate temperature on your level of caregiving burnout risk, you can request a free assessment at www.bloomforcoach.com. After all, you are a caregiver so deserving of abundance, admiration and respect. Go forward with energy and care.