Burnout is more than stress. And it isn’t just undesirable. It’s a risky condition.
The consequences of burnout include
- emotional depletion, often leading to depression;
- reduced resistance to common illnesses, such as colds and flu;
- increased likelihood of a chronic disease, such as heart disease or diabetes;
- lack of energy to do what is necessary for your relative.
Some stress is inevitable when caring for a loved one. But unrelenting stress is bad for everyone. Think of a candle. If you leave it lit 24/7, it will quickly burn through. But if you let it rest between periods of use, it will last a long time. You are like that candle.
Use these strategies to avoid reaching the burnout zone:
- Accept the realities. Sometimes life is cruel and unfair. Acknowledge your grief. Acknowledge any frustration or resentment. At the same time, value the ways you are skillfully addressing life’s challenges.
- Get help. Develop a specific list of things others can do. And keep it up to date. Consider what tasks friends or family could take over. If there are no volunteers, hire help.
- Give yourself time away. You may need quiet time to replenish. Or conversation and social activity. Or both! Respite is essential. Aim for personal time on a regular basis. Even 15 minutes a day can do wonders.
- Care for your body. Sleep! Eat nourishing foods. Find a physical activity you can do at home (hula hoop anyone?). Keep up with dental and medical checkups.
- Maintain other interests. Don’t forsake your friends, work, or hobbies. They help add meaning to your life.
- Cultivate gratitude. Take a step back and reflect on the ways that caregiving has helped you grow personally. Be sure to let those who are pitching in know how much their efforts mean to you.
- Find community. Identify at least one person you can comfortably talk with, perhaps a friend, pastor, or therapist. Join a caregiver support group.