Are You At Risk of Caregiver Burnout?

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Caregiving for someone losing their independence can be challenging. Organizational Consultant and Counselor, Michal Goldberg, unpacks the side effects of caregiving and highlights the warning signs of caregiver burnout.

Caregivers all have different experiences, but too many forget to look after themselves. The worry is always there. You may have worked out an air-tight routine, but you fear that the wheels will fall off at any moment. In the search for solutions and pointers, you find yourself overwhelmed with information overload. 

Burnout is a real risk for caregivers, so it's essential you know the warning signs... before it's too late. 

Unlike doctors, nurses, and other medical staff whose work ends after a shift, a caregiver's role is never over. Often, being a caregiver means being available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Even if you're not physically with your loved one, the worry is still there. The responsibility can be crushing –especially in day-to-day life. 

What are the warning signs of caregiver burnout to look out for? 

If you feel overwhelmed by any of the following, it's time to seek support. Be honest! There's no prize for "fighting through". 

  • Stress. Caregivers suffer from more stress than they care to admit. Not only are they providing round-the-clock care, but they also have to deal with a shifting dynamic in the relationship with their loved one. You may not realise many signs of stress, such as restlessness, passiveness, loss of sleep, and headaches. 

  • Anxiety is also rife among caregivers. The carer is preoccupied with thoughts of their loved one's wellbeing and care management. This fear weighs heavily, leading to possible anxiety. Feeling overwhelmed and worried is common among caregivers. If you think this way, don't hesitate to seek support. 

  • Frustration is natural, as is loneliness and even despair. Feeling sad is understandable. However, constant sadness and extreme mood swings are signs that you are overworked. 

  • Unstable relationships. Anger and frustration are totally understandable. Yet, if a caregiver feels unsupported, they may inadvertently take their anger out on others. This may strain relationships with friends, family, or children. If you're worried about your relationships with others, it's time to ask for help. 

How to deal with the side effects of caregiving

1- Remember you are not alone

Feeling lonely is common, and some caregivers feel totally isolated. Please remember that you're not alone in all this. 

If you feel isolated, reach out to loved ones and seek help whenever possible. Any form of support is essential, whether professional or personal. You need the chance to lift some of the weight that rests on your shoulders.

Sometimes even the slightest signs of support can make a difference.

2 - Make sure you’re resting enough

Many caregivers feel that sleep is a "privilege". It's not. It's a necessity. 

Caregiving is all about being preoccupied. Even when you're not near your loved one, your thoughts keep returning to him or her. 

Although it's clear why the stress may interfere with your sleep, sleep deprivation can turn into a vicious cycle. It not only takes a toll on your caring abilities, but it will also eat away at your wellbeing. 

3 - Establish a good sleep routine and set health goals

How can you get better sleep at night? You could try these methods: 

  • Keeping a daily routine. Most caregivers desperately try to stick to a routine, so you know it's a must. Routine will provide the stability you need to sleep peacefully. 

  • Exercising. Physical activity is vital for "feel good" endorphins that lift your mood. Whether it is Tai Chi, yoga, or swimming, outdoor activity is enriching. Try carving out 15 minutes each day – even if it’s just for a walk in the garden – and see how you feel.

  • Cutting screen time before bed. Television, laptops, and smartphones emit blue light, which can trick your brain into staying awake. Avoid screens an hour before bed time, even if you use a blue light filter. 

  • Eating nutritiously. A small, tasty dinner in the evening will help you later on at night. Fatty food often causes sleep and digestive disturbances. 

Drinking plenty of water. Our brains are strongly influenced by our hydration status, so it’s important to keep your eye on your liquid consumption.

If you've tried all the above and are still finding it difficult to sleep, make an appointment with your doctor.

4 - Check for aches and pains

Stress and sleep deprivation can manifest themselves through bodily aches and pains. 

If you need to lift and carry your loved one often, you may be straining your body in ways you don't know. If you feel pain often or it doesn't go away, please see a doctor as soon as possible.

5 - Focus on what you need 

Guilt is a normal part of caregiving. Yet, caregiving is such a draining role, it's impossible to do everything perfectly. Don't forget that you are doing the best you can. You're human, and you should treat yourself as one. 

6 - Don't forget about YOU

Treat yourself well. Take a daily look at the mirror and take time off for yourself when you need it.

Most importantly, don't give up the things that make you happy. A caregiver needs care as much as anyone else. You deserve it. 


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