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How to ease caregiver burnout

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Caregivers have a lot on their plates. Here’s how to take care of yourself while you’re taking care of someone else.

More than 1 in 5 Americans are caregivers. This is someone who cares for an older, ill or disabled person.1 If you’re one of them, you know the joy that comes from offering comfort and support to a loved one. But you also know the stress that comes with your responsibilities.

In fact, more than 35% of caregivers are highly stressed. And 21% rank their own health as fair to poor.2

Signs of caregiver burnout include:

  • Tiredness
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • A lack of energy
  • Feelings of hopelessness at times
  • Losing interest in activities you previously enjoyed
  • A lack of motivation

If you've ever been on an airplane, you've heard that you should put on your own oxygen mask before you help others. This advice holds true in caregiving, too.

If you're feeling burned out, try these expert-backed strategies. They can help you take care of yourself while you're taking care of someone else.

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Ask for help

It's easy to feel alone when your to-do list is getting longer. But often, the people in your life want to help. Take them up on their offers or reach out to ask for support. And be as specific as possible about what you need. Grocery shopping? Helping with laundry? Make a list so you don't have to figure it out each time. 

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness means paying attention to the moment without judgment.3 And its benefits go far beyond easing caregiver burnout. Meditation and breathing exercises may even help ease mental health issues.4

Just sitting outside with a cup of coffee for 10 minutes in the morning can be grounding. Here 10 more ways to feel calmer.

Be realistic

It's natural to want to go out of your way for the people you love. But nobody can be everything for anyone else. You must be realistic about what you can do all by yourself.

Remind yourself that you’re doing your best and making the best decisions that you can.

Lean on community resources

You don't have to do it all alone. There may be groups in your town or city that offer rides, home-delivered meals or shopping help.

See if your community offers any of these services. There may be information on your town’s website. If you’re caring for a parent, you can also check with your local senior center. Your loved one's health plan might even offer them. If you don't know where to start, your loved one's doctor might have recommendations.

Join a support group

Caregiving can be lonely and isolating. It's important to connect with people who understand what you're going through. A local support group is a great way to find comfort.

Some support groups are online, while others are in person. If you are taking care of someone with an illness, their care facility might offer a caregivers support group.

Celebrate small victories

A win looks different for everyone. Maybe you helped your loved one get dressed this morning without difficulty. Maybe you found time during the day to take a bath and unwind with a new book. Don't compare your wins to anybody else's. And don't discount even the tiniest victories.

Finding it hard to get into this mindset? Try focusing on the things you can control and try to let go of the things you cannot.

Take days off

Giving yourself a break is key to keeping burnout at bay. Stepping away for a short time allows you to return feeling refreshed.

Take advantage of care services. Or reach out to friends and family who can step in and give you some much-deserved time off.

Let yourself grieve

Grief is often linked to death. But you may be grieving even though your loved one is still alive.

Memory issues might make them different from the person they once were. Other conditions might make it hard to enjoy the activities you once shared with your loved one.

Remind yourself that the grief you're feeling is normal. Give yourself time to process those feelings.

Accept your feelings

When you're feeling overwhelmed from caring for a loved one, know your limits. Be honest with yourself about your personal situation.

Accepting your potential for caregiver burnout is the first step in opening yourself up to outside help.

You can’t completely get rid of stress from your life. But you can learn to manage it. Get on-the-go support from Sanvello. Or work 1-on-1 with a virtual therapist or coach from AbleTo. Find support now.

Sources

  1. National Alliance for Caregiving. Caregiving in the U.S. 2020. Accessed June 15, 2022.
  2. 2020 Report. Caregiving in the U.S. Published May 2020. Accessed June 16, 2022.
  3. Department of Homeland Security. Mindfulness meditation. Last updated March 8, 2021. Accessed June 16, 2022.
  4. National Institute of Mental Health. Psychotherapies. Last revised June 2021. Accessed June 16, 2022.

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