There are few responsibilities more rewarding, and more stressful, than being a caregiver. We asked real caregivers how they manage their stress and avoid reaching burnout.
Here are ways you can avoid caregiver burnout:
1. Rally your community for support
You’d be surprised how much support you can get just by asking for it. Don’t downplay what you’re going through or worry about being a burden on others. Ask your neighbors, coworkers, friends and family for the help you need. In most cases, they’ll gladly go above and beyond your call for aid!
“Just recently my husband at 47 had triple bypass surgery. I had constant help from my circle of friends, neighbors, community, family and church. I had meals brought in for 3 weeks, my mother in law stayed with me for 8 weeks, neighbors called, and helped with rides for my boys, sisters from church send me cards, messages to uplift our soul. My attitude was wonderful. I had a phrase that I constantly repeated. “SMILE AND WAVE”. It helped a lot.” Yvette S.
2. Learn to accept help from others
You can do this. But you can’t do this alone. Caregivers often bring stress upon themselves simply because they won’t allow others to pitch in. Listen to these caregivers below who found the help of others to be critical in avoiding burnout:
“Learn to accept help. If you can afford to hire to clean your home once a month or to plow your driveway, do it. Walk. See your friends for a meal periodically. A massage. Eat healthy. Get rest. Only do the necessities. Make meals in bulk and freeze them. Turn off negativity such as the news. Don’t let toxic people into your life. Pray.” Kelly F.
“Accept help from others! There are so many that want to help. You can’t possibly do it all by yourself. Even if it is the littlest thing!” Shauna J.
3. Cultivate hobbies as an outlet for stress
Caregiving is a 24/7 job, but you need to make time for yourself. Be intentional about keeping or cultivating your interests so that you have a way to channel the stress of being a caregiver in a positive way.
“Allow yourself to be defined as anything but a caregiver, if you spend an inordinate amount of time giving care… cultivate hobbies as ways to be known, so that others know what to talk about other than the caretaking you do (they are probably secretly admiring you and may want to focus on that aspect of who you are).” Shelli L.
“I have made myself return to teaching/participating in martial arts, albeit in short durations, but it’s the break I need.” Jame C.
“Find things you can do to take care of yourself, do things you enjoy and also get rest and find people to help you with caregiving when you can.” Peggy G.
4. Give yourself permission to take a break
You’ve earned it. Avoid the pitfalls of caregiver burnout by giving yourself regularly scheduled breaks (this includes a vacation every now and then too!).
“Take breaks and vacations. It is the only way you’ll make it. You have to have help and accept help!” Debby B.
“Spend 1 hour alone each day. Not running errands or doing chores. Spend your time alone in a quiet place to decompress, to pray, to relive good memories. Spend 1 hour for you.” Sheila H.
“Have a good support system!! If you need a break, ask for it.” Jama C.
“Get a massage, weekly if possible.” Kelly E.
5. Find a reason to be grateful every day
The stress of caregiving is a heavy burden on anyone. Take time to step out of your daily routine to be grateful for something, for anything. Be grateful for the help being offered by others, for the beautiful weather or for yourself. You’ll feel the pressure begin to lift as you practice being grateful each day.
“End each day finding one thing, no matter how big or small, that you are grateful for.” Karen H.
6. Talk with a professional therapist
You can’t care for others without caring for yourself. So many caregivers reach unmanageable levels of stress because they don’t have someone to talk honestly with about their experiences. Don’t neglect your mental health. Make an appointment with a therapist.
“Talk with a counselor: regularly!!! Do not skip. Make it a priority. Think of concrete things others can do to help and when they ask let them!!! One of my friends cleaned my fridge and freezer when we were in the hospital with my son. Be grateful for the smallest of things. It puts your mind in a different place. ❤️” Maureen R.
Resources for Caregivers to Avoid Burnout
- How to Manage Compassion Fatigue: Watch this Ted Talk by Patricia Smith on the importance of caregivers maintaining their emotional, physical, and spiritual health.
- Caregiver Action Network: The Caregiver Action Network provides family caregivers with education and resources to better manage their responsibilities.
- Family Caregiver Alliance: This website contains a national directory of resources and services for family caregivers.
- CaringBridge.org: In times of need, the greatest source of hope and healing is the love of family and friends. Keep them updated and informed on your health journey with a CaringBridge website.
New to CaringBridge and Wondering What We Do?
CaringBridge is a nonprofit social network dedicated to helping family and friends communicate with and support loved ones during a health crisis through the use of free, personal websites. Know someone who could benefit from starting a CaringBridge site to keep loved ones informed and get the love, and support they need?