Recharging and Finding Balance
The demands of caregiving can be overwhelming, especially if you feel you have little control over the situation or you’re in over your head. If the stress of caregiving is left unchecked, it can take a toll on your health, relationships, and state of mind—eventually leading to burnout. When you’re burned out, it’s tough to do anything, let alone look after someone else. That’s why making time to rest, relax, and recharge isn’t a luxury—it’s a necessity.
“The capacity to care is the thing which gives life its deepest meaning and significance.” – Pablo Casals
Caring for a loved one can be very rewarding, but it also involves many stressors: changes in the family dynamic, household disruption, financial pressure, and the added workload.
Caregiver stress can be particularly damaging, since it is typically a long-term challenge. You may face years of caregiving responsibilities and without adequate help and support, the stress of caregiving leaves you susceptible to a wide range of physical and emotional difficulties.
When caregiver stress and burnout puts your own health at risk, it affects your ability to provide care. It hurts both you and the person you’re caring for. The key point is that caregivers need care too. Managing the stress levels in your life is just as important as making sure your family member gets to his doctor’s appointment or takes her medication on time.
Once you burn out, caregiving is no longer a healthy option for either you or the person you’re caring for. So it’s important to watch for the warning signs of caregiver burnout and take action right away when you recognize the problem. Here are a few tips to help keep you balanced and prevent burn-out.
#1 – ASK FOR HELP
Taking on all of the responsibilities of caregiving without regular breaks or assistance is a surefire recipe for burnout. Don’t try to do it all alone. Look into respite care or enlist friends and family who live near you to lend a hand where you need the extra help. This could include running errands, preparing meals, or look after the care receiver so you can take a well-deserved break.
#2 – GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK
As a busy caregiver, leisure time may seem like an impossible luxury. But you owe it to yourself—as well as to the person you’re caring for—to fit it into your schedule. Give yourself permission to rest and to do things that you enjoy on a daily basis. You will be a better caregiver for it.
There’s a difference between being busy and being productive. If you’re not regularly taking time-off to de-stress and recharge, you’ll end up doing more harm than good. After a break, you should feel more energetic and focused, so you’ll quickly make up for your relaxation time.
#3 – PRACTICE ACCEPTANCE
When faced with the unfairness of a loved one’s illness or the burden of caregiving, there’s often a need to make sense of the situation and ask “Why?” But you can spend a tremendous amount of energy dwelling on things you can’t change and for which there are no clear answers. And at the end of the day, you won’t feel any better.
Try to avoid the emotional trap of feeling sorry for yourself or searching for someone to blame. Focus instead on accepting the situation and looking for ways it can help you grown as a person.
#4 – TAKE CARE OF YOUR HEALTH
Neglecting your health will eventually lead to trouble. Don’t add to the stress of your caregiving situation with avoidable health woes. Be sure to get enough sleep, eat healthily, attend to your own medical needs and get exercise when you can. Doing these things will give you the fuel you need to keep going and remain strong.
#5 – JOIN A SUPPORT GROUP
A caregiver support group is a great way to share your troubles and find people who are going through the same experiences that you are living each day. If you can’t leave the house, join our caregiver online support group.
In most support groups, you’ll talk about your problems and listen to others talk; you’ll not only get help, but you’ll also be able to help others. Most importantly, you’ll find out that you’re not alone. You’ll feel better knowing that other people are in the same situation, and their knowledge can be invaluable, especially if they’re caring for someone with the same illness as you are.
There’s no getting around it. Caregiving is stressful. But you don’t have to be overwhelmed by your responsibilities. Learning to manage stress is part of being a good caregiver. And it’s not as impossible as you may think.
“From caring comes courage.” – Lao Tzu
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