Do you feel worn out? Overextended? Tired all the time? If so, you’re not alone. Balancing the constant demands of a busy work life on top of your caregiving roles and other responsibilities can feel virtually impossible. If you are caring for an aging parent, tending to children, or in a caregiving profession, the chronic stress involved in your caregiving responsibilities in addition to everything else that’s going on in your life and in the world may be putting you at high risk of burnout.
What is Caregiver Burnout?
Caregiver burnout is a state of mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive stress related to caregiving over a prolonged period of time. Burnout happens when the body’s stress response starts breaking down. Strangely, we don’t always see it coming because our symptoms have become so familiar to us that we think they are normal. Then we look around and see many others with the same symptoms and we truly start to believe this is just the way it is.
Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout
Some of the classic symptoms of caregiver burnout include irritability, hopelessness, helplessness, anxiety, poor sleep, appetite changes, exhaustion, loss of motivation, and inability to meet the demands of the day. It is when you go from feeling hopeful that things will be okay if you can just get it all under control to completely losing hope that there will be any positive changes to your situation. You get pessimistic, resentful, and no longer have the energy to deal with what’s happening in your life.
Signs of Caregiver Burnout
Caregiver burnout out is a process that occurs progressively over time. It is important to deal with burnout at its earliest signs, but how can you tell when you’ve exceeded your stress threshold? In the Conscious Caregiving Guide you will find a stress assessment to help you determine your stress level, but here are a few simple ways to tell if you’re on the road to burnout:
1. If you are dragging yourself out of bed in the morning feeling just as exhausted as you were when you collapsed into bed the night before and your batteries just don’t seem to be recharging anymore.
2. If the people who love and care about you are telling you that you need to slow down, take time off, talk to someone, or take better care yourself, trust them. They have a more objective perspective than you do.
3. Take a break from as many responsibilities as possible. If you feel rejuvenated afterward, you’re probably just tired and in need of a change of pace. You may say: I can’t take a break! As much as this may be true, it does beg the question of who will take over if you are burnt out and can’t do it anymore?
Trying to push through the exhaustion will only get you to your breaking point faster, and so it is important to make positive changes to your caregiving situation and to your life before it’s too late.