Why Caregiver Burnout Happens and How You Can Take Care Of Yourself

Burnout refers to a persistent state of physical, emotional, or psychological exhaustion. Burnout can happen in any role at any time, and it can affect every area of functioning. If left untreated, it can seriously compromise your quality of life.

Caregiver burnout, in particular, can present numerous challenges. As a caregiver, you may oscillate between feeling tired, worried, upset, or angry. These intense emotions can make it challenging to connect with others, and they can exacerbate issues within the caregiving itself.

Let’s get into what you need to know.

What Is Caregiver Burnout?

As an overarching definition, caregiver burnout refers to a chronic state of exhaustion, resentment, or apathy related to caregiving.  The burnout may start slowly and ramp up as time progresses. Sometimes, you might not even notice the impact until it becomes obvious to others.

It’s important to remember that caregiver burnout can look different for everyone. That said, common signs and symptoms include:

  • persistent depression.
  • loss of interest in usual relationships or activities.
  • feeling more irritable than usual.
  • increased anxiety.
  • sleep problems or drastic changes in sleep patterns.
  • feeling more achy, tense, or sick than usual.
  • physical exhaustion.
  • thoughts about hurting yourself or others.
  • ongoing resentment about caregiving tasks.

The more symptoms you experience, the more severe your burnout may feel. That’s why it’s essential to reflect and assess your current situation. Being honest with yourself allows you to take the necessary steps towards change.

Why Does Caregiver Burnout Happen?

As a caregiver, you likely devote immense time, energy, and resources to your loved one. At the same time, you might also be juggling numerous other tasks, including work, childcare, and daily household chores. Balance may seem like an impossible goal, and it can feel frustrating and even discouraging trying to achieve it.

Other variables that may contribute to this burnout include:

Feeling out of control: Many caregivers experience sadness or anger about lacking the time or resources to plan for their loved one’s care properly. Similarly, you may feel unequipped to manage their condition and worry about unforeseen events happening in the future. Feeling out of control can spiral into negative thoughts about yourself or others.

Identity/role difficulties: It can be incredibly challenging to transition from a spouse, friend, or child into a caregiving role. Others may also not fully understand your tasks or expectations. Role confusion may trigger your own feelings of guilt or incompetence.

Lack of appreciation: Caregiving, at times, may feel exhaustive or thankless. These feelings may be compounded with more severe or progressive conditions like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

Limited time for self-care: Depending on your particular situation, caregiving can be either a part-time or full-time job. If you’re managing other responsibilities, it may seem like you have no time to take care of your own needs and desires.

How to Manage Caregiver Burnout

If you’re concerned you’re experiencing burnout, here are some action-based steps to consider taking.

Identify (and work towards accepting) your feelings: Caregiving is difficult, and it’s okay to feel your emotions. Denying, suppressing, or minimizing them often backfires. Your feelings offer key information about how you’re processing information. Remember that even intense feelings don’t make you a bad person or ineffective caregiver.

Focus on small acts of intentional self-care: Time may feel limited right now, but you still need to prioritize your well-being. If you have even a moment, take a few deep breaths. If you’re driving to an appointment, listen to your favorite music. Build these moments of joy routinely into your day.

Educate yourself on what to expect: Having a roadmap of what may happen in the future can help you feel more prepared. Try to avoid mindlessly Googling symptoms or trajectories. Instead, talk to your loved one’s physician for accurate information.

Ask for help: Everyone has a threshold. If you believe you’re at your limit, start looking into alternative care options. Talk to other family or friends to see how they can help, reach out to respite care, or talk to your loved one’s doctor about what else you can do.

Join a support group: Unfortunately, caregiver loneliness is a common phenomenon. However, finding other people who understand your struggles can feel incredibly validating. A support group allows you to share your feelings in a nonjudgmental and safe environment.

Therapy for Caregiver Burnout

Self-help strategies can make a significant difference in improving how you feel. However, these strategies may not be enough, especially if you struggle with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues.

Therapy for caregiver burnout can help you feel more empowered, optimistic, and grounded in your role. Together, we can work through some of the fears and obstacles you’re facing. In addition, we can collaborate on healthy coping skills to help you navigate your stress.

Caregiving is hard, but having the right support can help lighten your load. Contact me today to get started.

4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759

(512) 988-3363

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