Caring for an ailing loved one is demanding, time-consuming, and quite stressful. Often, caregivers spend a great deal of time making sure their loved one’s needs are met and their affairs are on track. What often goes quickly out the window? The caregiver’s own needs. The following are ways to detect if you, as a caregiver, have neglected yourself to the point of burnout.
Isolation. As human beings, we thrive upon healthy relationships. When you find yourself regularly failing to engage in healthy social interaction–even with your own friends and family–this may be a huge signal that caregiving has begun draining you. Avoiding calls from people you enjoy, making excuses for not going out, etc… can indicate you may be well on your way to isolating yourself from others, which is never good.
Feeling Overwhelmed. Caregiving can be an emotional rollercoaster for sure. There is the physical toll of spending so much time attending to the needs of your loved one. Further, there’s an emotional toll that comes with facing the shift in relational roles, seeing both physical and emotional decline in your loved one, and having to face day-to-day tasks which reinforce that life as you have known it has changed.
It is natural to grieve, especially at the beginning of your caregiving experience. Frustration can arise. Anxiety and exhaustion can arise. But over time and left untreated, those feelings can lead straight into depression. If you become angry to the point of wanting to hurt your loved one or even yourself, get help fast. Your doctor should be able to diagnose whether there is a medical condition driving these symptoms. If medical challenges have been eliminated as a probability, you may have reached the point of extreme burnout and may possibly be experiencing depression.
It is important to remember that while you serve as a support system for your loved one, you will also need to create a team of others who can step in to help. Being kind to your loved one is important, but it is also important for you to be kind to–and eliminate excess pressure on–yourself.
Loss of Interest. One of the biggest warning signs of depression is loss of interest, especially in things that were once a huge source of happiness and enjoyment. When your hobbies, big and small, no longer inspire you… you may need help.
Significant Changes in Your Sleeping or Eating Patterns. Can’t sleep at night? Can’t get enough sleep, no matter how long you’ve been in bed? Binge eating or hardly eating at all? Major shifts in your habits generally indicate huge shifts in your stress levels and turmoil in your emotions.
Ceasing Your Exercise Routine Despite Enjoying It Before. Exercise is one of the best stress-busters available. It leaves a person invigorated and energized. So, when you used to enjoy exercise and suddenly stop, start again! The endorphins released while you’re exercising will relieve tension and help elevate your mood, plus you will get a better night’s sleep.
Failing To Keep Up Your Appearance. Unfortunately, many caregivers fall into the mode of caring for a loved one so much that simple grooming (haircuts, manicures, etc…) become neglected. Some who once were fashion-conscious and took particular efforts to care for their appearance can suddenly become apathetic in this area. Generally, your outward appearance reflects what’s happening inside. This challenge may require some input from others you trust–close confidants, social workers, or healthcare therapists can help you sort things out to decide if you’re experiencing burnout and if additional help is necessary.
Frequently Susceptible To Illness. If you catch every cold or flu that comes your way, and especially if you cannot shake the cold once you get it, your immune system is likely compromised. Our bodies are not created to handle excessive stress for long periods of time. If this is you, caregiving could be getting to you.
Take these symptoms seriously. You can only be a good caregiver for your loved one if you yourself are healthy and happy.