10 Self-Care Tips to Prevent Caregiver Burnout
Care-giving can be very stressful. If you are providing care for for an elderly parent or someone else, you need to take steps to safeguard your health and well-being in order to prevent burnout.
Burnout is physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that could be caused by caring for others and neglecting your own needs. Long hours, prolonged stress, and the physical and emotional demands of care-giving can very easily have negative impact on your well-being.
Understanding your own needs should help you to take responsibility for your personal well-being. For example, taking time away, before you become too saturated with the work, is extremely beneficial. It also means knowing your limits and taking time off in order to reflect and rejuvenate yourself.
You are able to give quality care to the person in your care only to the extent that you are physically and emotionally healthy. Find a sense of balance in your life; do things you love that stimulate your creativity. Also, take time to focus on your spirituality and get the strength and peace you need.
If you read this article on improving caregiver self-care, you will find specific steps on how to take care of yourself to prevent, or cope with, burnout, This will allow you to see positive changes in your life.
CareGiver Self-Care Poll
Care-giving can be stressful, how do you take care of yourself?
1. Identify and acknowledge your Feelings
If you are a care-giver over a long period, you are likely to experience a wide range of emotions including sadness, guilt, anger, and resentment. Don't push them away, but try to identify the feelings you are experiencing. They might be sending you messages that you need to listen and respond to.
If, for example, you are experiencing deep feelings of sadness. you could be grieving a loss. This could be the loss of the parent you once knew as strong and in control. But now this same parent is in need of your care.
Whatever the underlying emotions, you will need to take steps to understand and deal with them. This might mean seeing a professional counselor who could help you to work through the issues related to the emotions you are experiencing.
Taking Care of Yourself
2. Set Realistic Goals
Get in the habit of setting priorities for the short-term, for example, daily, but also for the long-term. For each day, be realistic about what you can accomplish, and put off the less important tasks for later. In the same, way set goals as guides for your care-giving tasks, but also to ensure that you take care of yourself.
It is critical that you do not get so consumed with the care you are giving, that you don't take care of yourself. This could result in you being burnout and not giving quality care. Pat Samples, Diane Larsen & Marvin Larsen (2000) in their book, Self-care for Caregivers: A Twelve Step Approach, invite you to explore the Twelve Step path, finding the guidance you need as you go.
This path includes keeping things simple, taking one day at a time, and coming to terms with the fact that in time everything passes. When you move along this path you come to recognize that you don't have to try to control what is beyond your control. This enables you overcome feelings of frustration and failure. Start by accepting that there are things that you cannot change, then take some time to reflect on the Serenity Prayer.
3. Change Negative Self-Talk
You could find that your attitudes and beliefs hinder your taking care of yourself properly. For example, you might feel that you are selfish if you pay attention to your own needs. Or, you may find it difficult, or feel inadequate to ask for what you need.
You need to change the negative ways of viewing the situation that you are in. Your feelings and behaviors are largely influenced by your thinking or self-talk. So you might be telling yourself that others won't help you, and so you don't ask for the help you need.
4. Promote Constructive Communication
As a caregiver, you need to practice communicating in a clear, assertive, and constructive way. As you do, you will find that people understand your needs better, and you can elicit the support you need.
You could begin by using "I' statements instead of "you" statements. When you do this, you express how you are feeling without blaming others. It is likely then, that others will be less defensive, and more willing to listen to you.
Try to speak openly and honestly about what you are experiencing, but do so in a respectful way. At the same time, listen to others, and try to understand their point of view.This could go a far way to ease some of the stress and conflicts that you experience in care-giving.
Steps to Reducing Stress in Your Life
What is the primary step you take to deal with personal stress?
5. Practice Stress Management Techniques
As a caregiver, you need to practice communicating in a clear, assertive and constructive way. As you do, you will find that you will be heard, and you can elicit the support you need.
You could begin by using "I' statements instead of "you" statements. When you do this, you express how you are feeling without blaming others. It is likely then, that others will be less defensive and more willing to listen to you.
Try to speak openly and honestly about what you are experiencing, but do so in a respectful way. At the same time, listen to others, and try to understand their point of view. This could go a far way to ease some of the stress and conflicts that you experience in care-giving.
Take a Break: Take a 5-Minute Vacation
6. Promote Your Spirituality
Note: This tip is written from a Christian perspective, but it can easily be adapted to apply to any religion or notion of spirituality.
In the midst of the hustle and bustle of care-giving, you need to take time to connect with your Father who loves you, and understands what you are going through. He wants to lavish you with his love, affirm you, and give you the strength you need to move forward.
As you draw strength from your Father's overflow of love, you can pour that loving care on the person who needs it. So take some time for prayer and meditation on the Word of God each day. Then receive the strength you need from you Father who so willing to give you all you need.
In all of this, you could find that there are lessons you learn from your experiences as a caregiver. These lessons could lead to the personal growth that you need to move forward after your care-giving experiences,
7. Maintain Your Own Health
Enjoy a balanced diet, and eat regular meals that include fruits and vegetables. You need energy to be alert and effective. Keep physically active, take time for walking and other activities. Get enough sleep to to replenish you for your daily tasks. Schedule relaxing bedtime routines, such relaxing in a hot bath or listening to music.
You have you own healthcare needs to attend to promptly. Get help to keep regular dental and medical appointments, and the necessary health checks and screenings. Make arrangements to have another caregiver in charge while you take care of your own health.
8. Make Arrangements for Respite
You need to identify people who can provide you with respite. You could take advantage of respite care services that are offered, or another family member could fill in for you.
This could give you a temporary break, for a few hours or for a longer time, to do things to recharge yourself. Be sure to make private time for yourself, where you can read, listen to music, write in your journal, or just do stuff that you love to do.
Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.— Christopher Germer
Moving Forward Maintaining Your Well-Being
As you continue to provide care, you could become vulnerable to burnout. You are busy caring for others and might neglect your own needs. Taking steps to put these ten tips into practice, could reduce your likelihood burnout and improve your quality of life.
When you consistently consider your own well-being, you are not being selfish. If you are physically, emotionally and spiritually well, you are in a good place to truly help and take care of others.
9. Stay Connected with Family and Friends
Care-giving can seem lonely, and you are likely to feel isolated sometimes. Whatever you do, try not to become isolated, stay connected with others and build relationships, this will enhance your well-being. So make an effort to spend quality time with your family and friends.
10. Join a Support Group
You will find that joining a support group can help you to feel less isolated, and encourage your self-care. There are also online groups that can help you to feel more connected.
The people in support groups, understand what you are going through, and you can share your experiences. You can also get care-giving tips that you might find helpful to provide quality care for the person you are looking after.
References and Further Reading
Family Caregiver Alliance (2012). Taking care of YOU: Self=care for family caregivers. Accessed July 25, 2013.
National Caregiver Training Workbook (n.d.). Module 1: Caregiver self-care. Accessed July 25, 2013.
© 2013 Yvette Stupart PhD