Caregiver burnout can be creep up on you or hit you like a brick wall. I’ve been through it twice now, first time it crept up on me and the second time it hit me like a brick wall! I’ve experienced the best of both worlds, so to speak. Going through it once should have taught me a lesson, right?
It is far easier to say “Well, I’m not doing that again” than it is to actually stick to it. There are some valuable lessons to be learned going through such a burnout, but it is not something I would wish upon any caregiver. So I came up with different ways to try to avoid another burnout (at least for the near future) and would like to share these tips y’all.
I truly hope you find these tips helpful.
8 Tips to avoid Caregiver Burnout
1) Set reasonable goals!
One of the most important things a Caregiver does is to set goals for just about everything; and when I say everything, I mean everything! You have a whiteboard, 3-ring binder, notebook, or just random pieces of paper floating around with all the chores, tasks, projects, homework, appointments, etc. listed. You try to complete a year’s worth of stuff in about 2 months. Everyone has something that needs done and you are the one that is in charge of making it happen. Does this sound familiar? Setting goals may be an important step toward getting organized and getting things done; but having too many goals within too short of a period, may defeat the entire purpose of setting those goals in the first place.
- Set reasonable goals, be mindful about setting them and don’t stress if you happen to not make the deadline you set for yourself.
- Set weekly goals, such as laundry day(s), sweeping and mopping days or mowing the lawn on certain days.
- Set daily goals, such as washing the dishes every night and emptying the dishwasher in the morning, or taking any mail that needs to be sent out to the Post Office on your way to work or when coming home from taking the kids to school.
- Regardless of what your goals are, make sure they are reasonable. There is no way, you will be able to single-handedly move every country toward World Peace, eradicate World Hunger, or eliminate every crime known to man. So, why are you trying to take on a-gazillion-and-one projects of which most may not get completed, because you are so distracted and stressed?
- Take it easy! Be mindful! Set reasonable goals! Even if that means cooking a home-cooked meal for one week instead of take-out every two days. You set a small and reasonable goal, and achieved it!
2) Know your limits
Everyone has their limits. What those limits are, depends on you though. My tolerance for pain may be far lower than yours, and vice versa. The same goes for setting limits. If you try to go beyond your limit- physically, financially or emotionally the smallest tasks will become some of the hardest to complete. You just went from writing a journal entry about your day to writing an 80-page Thesis on Quantum Physics.
- Know when to stop or slow down on giving care!
- Know when you need find help for yourself or the responsibilities of caregiving!
- Know when you need a break! Whether it is leaving the dishes in the sink for the night (YES! I know, I just told you to set it as a goal; but I also said that it IS OK to not always meet those goals!)
3) Know what you’re dealing with
In order to fulfill all caregiver duties and responsibilities, you try to understand and learn as much about your loved one’s condition as possible. You try to understand and empathize with their pain and you try to understand what they must be feeling on a daily basis. That is great! However, think of this step as going far beyond THEIR well-being.
- Knowing what you are dealing with may help you set your own limits and reasonable goals.
- Understanding your loved one’s limitations may very well help you determine your limitations as well.
- Knowing and understanding their condition, whether it is PTSD, TBI, Autism, Alzheimer’s, Dementia, or something completely different, may enable you to become a more resourceful caregiver; which could potentially help you avoid caregiver burnout.
4) Learn to accept your own feelings
Having negative feelings, such as frustration, anger, sadness, and a sense of loss, are all normal feelings to develop at one time or another while caring for a loved one. As a caregiver you may deal with isolation, because your day consists of caregiver responsibilities in addition to work, school, household duties, parenting, etc. It can and will get frustrating. A sense of loss could also overcome you, as you may feel as though you have lost a part of yourself or your previous life and lifestyle. Frustration and anger can also become part of this cluster.
- Learning to accept these feelings may be helpful in finding coping mechanisms for yourself.
- Learning to accept these feelings may be helpful in setting goals and limits for yourself.
- Accepting negative feelings as a very real part of caregiving, can be helpful if these feelings don’t seem to go away and you may need to find more appropriate channels to get help for yourself!
5) Find someone you trust and (try to) foster that relationship
This may be one of the toughest tips to take in, but it is a very important one! As caregivers often times deal with isolation and negative feelings about themselves and their situation, finding someone to trust AND having the ability (as well as strength) to foster such relationships is probably one of the last things on a caregiver’s mind. I understand that, because I’ve been there and still am! It is difficult to make friends or find people who will put up with all the canceled coffee get-together(s) and shopping trips, or the endless days of you being so exhausted that you are barely able to keep your eyes open during a conversation. Just simply linking up with someone who understands, is extremely difficult.
- Nevertheless, having a person you are able to trust and talk to when those negative feelings come creeping up, or you just need a shoulder to cry on, can take some of the burden of your shoulders.
- This person may not be able to take over your responsibilities as a caregiver, but they may be able to provide emotional support.
6) Find a Support Group
This route may be an option to find others in similar situations. Which could potentially make it far easier to develop new relationships. Everyone in the support group has at least one thing in common, and that is being a caregiver. Or whatever group you choose to attend.
- Look for support groups that are tailored to your caregiving needs.
- You may find groups that are specifically for Caregivers of Veterans, Caregivers of children with Autism, Caregivers of loved ones with dementia; and the list goes on.
- Often times, your local newspaper may have information about support groups and the meeting times in your area.
- Actually attending these groups is also a very important step. (This is where I often times have issues myself, as I always come up with some kind of excuse to not go: appointments, no gas money, homework, etc.)
7) Stay healthy and positive
Easier said than done, right? I will not disagree with you, it is A LOT easier said than actually done!
- Exercise is not only for the purpose of losing weight, it can have a positive effect on mood and emotion as well.
- Exercise, even if it consists of going for a walk after dinner, could be the perfect reason to find some much-needed me-time.
- Use this time to clear your mind and do something enjoyable.
8) Be realistic!
Understand the limitations that you and your loved one may deal with and set realistic goals for yourself and your loved one.
- Understanding your loved one’s condition(s) and all its complications can be extremely helpful in this (often times) life-long process.
- Being realistic about all possible outcomes can tremendously help in being able to set goals and limits for yourself.
- If it is more realistic that your loved one may never be truly happy again, does it make sense to pour all of your energy in trying to giving them everything in order to force happiness for them?
- If it is more realistic that your loved one may (multiple times) forget to complete the honey-do-list you created for them, does it make sense to try to expect them to run the entire household while you’re at work?
- Has your loved one been diagnosed with a terminal illness? As much as it may pain you, being realistic about the complications the conditions could bring may help you set limits and goals for yourself and your loved one.
- Stay realistic about goals, abilities and any possible complications.
What are some ways you treat yourself to avoid caregiver burnout?
With all the negative feelings and things that may be associated with being a caregiver, there are also quite a few advantages that being a caregiver brings to the table. Read my take on 3 Reasons why being a Caregiver is Awesome.
Disclaimer: Everything I share is solely based on my personal experience and is for informational purposes only. This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please view my disclosure policy.