It’s past noon and you haven’t had a chance to eat a full meal, finish that cup of coffee abandoned on the kitchen counter, or even respond to text messages you received yesterday from friends checking in on how you are doing. This is the life of a family caregiver well on their way to a condition known as ‘caregiver burnout’. Caring for a family member or loved one is an intense and demanding job, many times lasting 24-hours a day and seven days per week. Because of this, many caregivers eventually reach a level of mental and physical exhaustion that compromises their health.
Signs of a caregiver burnout include:
Withdrawal from friends and family
Loss of interest in activities
Experiencing irritability, hopelessness, and helplessness
Changes in appetite and weight
Compromised immune system
Exhaustion and changes in sleep pattern
Dependency on alcohol or sleep aids
It is incredibly important to establish healthy, sustainable habits early on in your caregiving journey to prevent this burnout from happening. Here are four stress-relieving activities and suggestions to incorporate in your caregiving journey that can help you stave off caregiver burnout.
1. Incorporate "Date Night"
Whether it is with a significant other or with a group of friends – go out and take some time to unwind and relax. It is easy to lose your identity in caregiving and have relationships suffer. Make a commitment to go out once a week and spend some time cultivating your relationships and keeping them healthy. Speaking with a friend can help relieve your caregiving burden and help you remain positive.
2. Exercise Daily
While taking the time to exercise might seem too far-fetched, if you are exhausted and run down, it can actually help improve your energy level for later in the day. Even if it is only 15 minutes to meditate or hold a few yoga poses – it can help you feel renewed and ready to face the challenges. If you haven’t consistently exercised in a while, be sure to take it slow and build up your stamina without overdoing it.
3. Eat Well
Nourish your body with whole foods like fresh fruit, vegetables, protein and healthy fats. While it might be tempting to run through the drive through when you’re feeling tired and overwhelmed, try meal prepping in advance for these times. Try to also avoid reaching for the sugar-rich foods and drinks that are loaded with caffeine. In the long run, these do more harm than good and will give you a crash after a quick burst of energy.
4. Explore Respite Care
If you find yourself unable to find reliable, regular relief from caregiving, consider reaching out to your local senior living community, like a HarborChase community. Respite care at a senior living community is a flexible form of temporary care that can be used when you need to take some personal time away from caregiving. It can be from just a few hours to even a few weeks. During your time away, you can rest assured your loved one is getting the care and supervision they need by dedicated, trained staff.
When you’re burned out it’s extremely tough to take care of yourself, let alone someone else. That’s why you should prioritize taking care of yourself and not treat it as a luxury as it will make caregiving more sustainable in the long run. If you would like more information on respite care services, or need advice on how to maintain a good balance in your life while caregiving – contact HarborChase.