By Seija Grant, MEd CP, RP (Qualifying)
Are you a caregiver for an elderly parent, dependent child or adult? Or do you practice caregiving as a career choice? Not identifying and dealing with your Caregiver Burnout can result in Compassion Fatigue (lack of empathy) and is now starting to be recognized as having similar symptoms to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is important to pay attention to the signs and symptoms that your body is trying to tell you so that you can stop it in its tracks. So, what are the signs and symptoms? Well it starts with the body’s stress response—see below for some things to look out for.
Signs and symptoms of Caregiver Stress:
Signs and symptoms of Caregiver Burnout:
Do you identify with any of these signs and symptoms? Well that’s the first step--identification. Now what do you do? Here are some tips for coping with Caregiver Stress and Burnout.
Other than that, what you can do is to practice self-care. Give yourself permission to take a break from caregiving. If you are not able to take care of yourself, you will not be able to care for others. Think about the analogy of oxygen masks on a plane—as a caregiver you have to put your own mask on first before helping others with theirs. The same goes for any form of caregiving. How can you provide support when you have nothing left to give? Some things that need to remain prioritized are: maintenance of your own personal relationships and health, activities that bring you enjoyment, and getting yourself out of the house. Find small ways to pamper yourself, seek out laughter and fun (you deserve it!). Don’t forget to exercise, eat well, and get enough sleep (7-8 hours for most). As an added bonus, give yourself the gift of “you-time” with a little meditation break. Another idea to increase your mental wellbeing is to join a support group for caregivers—either online or in person. Having people who can understand your perspective and experience can be extremely validating.
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