Caregiving, especially caring for those with chronic conditions, is easily one of the most difficult career paths an individual can choose. It can be emotionally taxing, particularly when you do not see improvement in the patient’s health. Beyond that, caregiving can also be physically challenging and mentally exhausting.
For these reasons, it should come as no surprise that things like absenteeism and turnover rates can be high for caregivers. Job satisfaction and workplace morale may also suffer. It is important to make sure that caregivers take the time needed for self-care, otherwise they are likely to experience burnout. In a best-case scenario, this could result in things like increased stress or sleep disturbance; however, in worse-case scenarios, the personal health risks of burnout can be far worse.
In this article, we will go over the signs of burnout, so you can recognize the issue as soon as possible. After that, we will go over some of the best ways to counter burnout, so that caregivers stay healthy and are able to continue to provide the best care for their patients.
How to Recognize Caregiver Burnout
Everyone is different, so the signs of burnout can vary quite significantly from person to person. However, if you notice that you are feeling more tired or stressed than usual, if your sleeping or eating patterns are changing (more or less), or if you are starting to feel increasingly helpless or irritable, you need to take a minute to address your own personal wellbeing. Many people who experience burnout will start to neglect their own needs, or they might try to manage the increased stress by turning to a substance (smoking, drinking, eating).
It is common for caregivers to put their own needs aside and try to focus on the others who are in need of their assistance. This can put your own health at increased risk. Remember, if your health is failing, you will not be able to provide the best care to those around you. You have to first help yourself before you can help others.
How to Improve Emotional Wellbeing
You might not be feeling your best, but remind yourself that you do not have to continue feeling this way. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is time to put your own health first. Take time to do some of the things that bring you joy, pursue a new hobby, and try to spend some time outside or physically active every day. You may feel overly tired, but some exercise can actually give you more energy.
Spending time with loved ones can also have a great impact on your emotional health. While you may feel inclined to focus on your job or your patients, try to change the conversation to other “neutral” topics. This will give you a mental and emotional break from your work, and allow you to turn your focus inwards.