What is burnout?
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place (Robinson, Smith and Segal, 2019).
While caring can be very rewarding there is no doubt that caring for someone can be demanding, stressful and exhausting. It can be disheartening caring for someone who may never get better or if someone you care for is deteriorating despite your best efforts to look after them. Stress from caregiving can build up, and if ignored, can have an effect on your health, relationships and state of mind thus leading to burnout.
Taking care of yourself isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. When burnout occurs, high stress levels can mean you feel guilt when spending time on yourself and you often overwork yourself until you can not continue. Recognising the signs is vital in order to improve the situation for yourself and the person you are caring for.
Here are some signs of burnout:
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- A sense of overwhelm
- Loss of interest in activities
- Feeling depressed, irritable, hopeless
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Waking up with a feeling of dread
- Getting ill more often
- Emotional and physical exhaustion
- Reduced empathy for the person you are caring for
How to deal with it:
As a busy carer, making time for you on your time off is essential for you but also for the people you are caring for. Here are some strategies that can be helpful in preventing burnout:
A balanced and healthy diet
You are what you eat. Fill your body with nutrients to maintain healthy immune system.
When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. They trigger a positive feeling in the body.
Increase your social activity
Surrounding yourself with supportive people and increasing the time you spend with them is a great way to feel supported and reduce stress levels.
Take more time for yourself
What you do with this time is up to you. You might read a book, do some yoga, have a bath, go for a walk, or any other activity that works for you.
Start a hobby
Hobbies help you disconnect from your day to day activities and relax.
Get enough sleep
Sleep is important to the functioning of our body and brain and can assist during times of stress. If you are feeling tired, make sure you set a goal to get more sleep.
Reduce your intake of alcohol, caffeine and sugar
They can have an impact on your overall health, exacerbate the symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression and effect your sleep and general productivity.
Seek professional advice
Sometimes speaking with a professional can help you change the perception of your role and assist in setting up and implementing boundaries.
It’s easy to sit here and list strategies that you know you should be doing everyday but it’s extremely hard to implement, particularly for people who are born carers. However, it is impossible to care for others when your own reserves are low and to be truly effective in your caring role you must look after yourself and care for your own health and wellbeing.
Robinson, L., Smith, M. and Segal, J. (2019). Burnout Prevention and Treatment. [online] HelpGuide.org. Available at: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/burnout-prevention-and-recovery.htm [Accessed 3 Jan. 2020].
SuperCarers. (2019). How to deal with caregiver stress and burnout. [online] Available at: https://supercarers.com/blog/how-to-deal-with-caregiver-stress-and-burnout/ [Accessed 3 Jan. 2020].