There's no way to sugarcoat it. Being a caregiver is exhausting. That's why it's so important for you to remember to include some down time as part of your required caregiver duties. This is especially true if you're already experiencing symptoms of caregiver burnout, such as anxiety, exhaustion, difficulty sleeping, trouble concentrating, or feeling resentful toward the person you’re helping.
While caregiver burnout is common, here are a few suggestions for how you can keep it at bay or give yourself a chance to recover when it creeps up on you.
- Yoga: Regardless of your fitness level or age, you can find a soothing yoga class to ease your sore muscles and encourage you to slow down and breathe. The meditation that comes at the end of yoga classes is especially useful for reminding yourself to take care of your body and to recharge your energy.
- Cardio exercise: As great as gentle yoga is, your body also needs some cardio to elevate the heart rate and keep your muscles strong. With your doctor’s approval, make it a point to get some cardio exercise in every week. Whether it’s a simple 15 minute walk around the neighborhood after dinner every night or a set workout routine at a gym, make time for physical activity. Don't let caregiving get in the way of your own health. All the endorphins you get at the end of a workout will naturally boost your mood and calm you down.
- Go out with friends: While being a caregiver can be rewarding, it can also be isolating, particularly when you're caring for someone with limited cognitive abilities. Make sure you are staying in touch with friends, or find ways to make new ones. Even a phone call with a friend can lift your mood and elevate your spirits.
- Find a support group: Whether local or online, support groups for caregivers are a great way to meet people who are going through the same challenges you are. You can learn a lot from the people who lead and attend support groups and even make friends along the way.
The most important takeaway is to make time for yourself. Every. Single. Day. Whether it’s for short relaxation breaks you make time for daily, to the occasional bigger chunks of time you take to recharge, make arrangements with friends and family members if necessary to give yourself that valuable “me time.”
Avoiding caregiver burnout is important for your own sake, but also for the sake of the person you're caring for. Ensuring you're providing the best possible care for others starts with taking the best possible care of yourself.