If you've ever acted as a caregiver for someone else, you're probably intimately familiar with just how taxing an experience it can be. Often, caregivers are so focused on the needs of their loved ones that they neglect their own well-being, which typically leads to what is called caregiver burnout. The term refers to the state of exhaustion resulting from prolonged caregiver stress, which can have serious consequences. In fact, according to an article published by Harvard Medical School, over 20% of caregivers say that the stress of caregiving has negatively impacted their own health.
Signs of Caregiver Stress and Burnout
Caregiver burnout will look and feel different for everyone. However, the following symptoms are the most common and may provide a useful diagnostic starting point. If left unchecked, caregiver burnout can easily spread to other areas of your life. :
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Feelings of irritability, resentment, or hopelessness
- Inability to relax
- Sleep disturbances
- Feeling tired and depleted
- Difficulty focusing
- Changes in appetite or weight
- More frequent sicknesses
- Increased substance use
Compromising your physical, emotional, and mental health will not only negatively impact your own well-being and quality of life, but will ultimately make you less able to fulfill your caregiving duties, work, and be fully present with your family and friends.
How To Prevent Caregiver Burnout
Caregiver burnout can't always be eliminated entirely, but it is possible to manage and reduce stress for caregivers. The following steps are a great place to start:
- Prioritize your health.
Often, this is easier said than done. However, even small changes toward a healthier diet, better sleep, and more exercise can make a big difference in your overall well-being.
- Be compassionate—but also realistic.
Instead of beating yourself up over your perceived shortcomings or inability to do it all, look for ways that you can be kind to yourself and practice self-care. At the same time, be honest with yourself about your loved one's situation and your own abilities. Often, accepting your situation and shedding some of your unrealistic expectations may help to eliminate some of the mental strife you may be experiencing.
- Get help.
Look for home help, respite care, or day programs in your area that can help ease some of your burdens. If none of those is available to you, ask friends or family members to support you. Even if they can pitch in so that you can take a break for an hour or two, it could do wonders for your mental health.
Envision Unlimited offers respite programs for caregivers and day programs as part of our mission to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities live happy, fulfilled lives in their communities. Our offerings, which include mental health support, residential, and employment services; specialized foster care; and accredited applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy for children, are designed to address the unique needs of each individual—regardless of age, background, or ability.
Our services are grounded in a spirit of advocacy and empowerment. We believe that all individuals are capable of living successful lives if given the right opportunities. Contact us today to discover how we can help you!