Updated: Apr 17, 2020
Providing caregiving for a loved one can be both rewarding and exhausting. In addition to the time and financial commitment, the emotional toll that caring for another has on caregivers is significant. Even the most mentally and emotionally healthy person can develop stress and even burnout from caregiving. Various emotions that often go through caregivers’ minds include anger, sadness, grief, isolation, exhaustion, and guilt. Even though you may have chosen to provide the care, it can still significantly affect you in many ways.
There are ways that you can cope with caregiver burnout. You can dig yourself out of the hole of despair. Caregiver stress, or burnout, can be mitigated. The earlier you catch your burnout, or stress related to caregiving, and the earlier you can start practicing these tips, the more effective they will be.
1. Connect with your support system
Combat isolation during your caregiving phase, and work at connecting with others, whoever they may be. Perhaps it’s another family member, or a close friend, or even your work colleagues/ex-colleagues. Make time for meaningful connection and activity with others whose life does not revolve around the caregiving needs of others. This will help get you out of your head, give you new and different things to talk and think about, and realize again that the world is a positive, hopeful place.
While meeting up in person is ideal, you may have to connect over the phone or video chat, which can be almost as good. Remember that you are interested in other people, and that others are interested in you. Share a bit of your emotional burden with a trusted friend or family member. If you don’t have a support system available, you can seek professional help through a counselor trained in caregiver support.
2. Practice daily self-care
Every day, do something for yourself and only yourself. Do something that makes you feel good in a strong, healthy way. Perhaps it’s taking your dog for a walk, or cooking yourself a gourmet meal for breakfast. Maybe it’s setting aside 30 minutes to read a fluff book that distracts you from the real world, or indulging in a bubble bath. Or possibly it’s all of the above things. So often, caregivers neglect themselves at the expense of their loved one, thinking that the other person is more important than themselves, and it is difficult to get out of that way of thinking.
However, the more you do to take care of yourself, the more you’ll have to give to your loved one, emotionally and physically. When you are running on empty, you have nothing left to provide others, and it shows to both yourself and your loved one. The best gift you can give your loved one, is taking care of yourself first.
3. Rediscover your purpose
Caregiving is so constant, and demanding, for such a long time that you may lose sight of what your purpose is both in life and with the caregiving. You may have put things on hold, such as vacations, work, or other family obligations, while you are caring for your loved one, and every day seems to blend into the next with no hope of change. Why did you become a caregiver in the first place? Perhaps it was obligation, but more often you were willing to do it for some reason. Really think about that reason and how you’ll look back at this time on your life as rewarding.
Then consider how you can make every day rewarding. What can you do with your loved one, or talk about with them, to help you reconnect with your purpose of caregiving? When we are in touch with our internal motivation of why we are doing something, it becomes much easier to do. When you remember why you are caring for your terminally ill husband, or special needs child, or aging parent, it just becomes a bit easier to do.
Caregiver stress and burnout are real issues that affect real people, who are just trying to do their best to care for a loved one. By following the above tips consistently, you will feel healthier and more equipped to handle your caregiving.
Getting Treatment for Caregiver Stress in Colorado
If you are interested in how the trained therapists at Catalyss Counseling can support you with caregiver burnout and stress, contact us for a free 20-minute phone consultation or book directly online with a therapist of your choice. We can help provide some relief from your caregiver stress and burnout.
Shannon Heers is a psychotherapist, guest blogger, and owner of Catalyss Counseling in Englewood, CO. Shannon helps adults in professional careers manage anxiety, depression, work-life balance, and grief and loss. Follow Catalyss Counseling on Facebook or LinkedIn.