Being a caregiver, especially in modern society, can be exhausting and overwhelming to say the least. Caregiver burnout is very real and many people around the world are experiencing it. The symptoms of caregiver burnout may not always be obvious, but deserve to be recognized for what they are. Learning the signs can prevent this phenomena from happening in the future.
What is Caregiver Burnout?
Regardless of who you are providing care for, being a caregiver is no small feat. It can be a rewarding experience, but it can also be very exhausting and overwhelming if left unchecked. If you are feeling that you are in over your head or feel as if you do not have much control over the situation, you might be experiencing caregiver burnout. Being a caregiver is often a long-term responsibility, so it is important to understand the signs and symptoms. Caregiving involves not only the physical labor of meeting the physical needs of the person you are giving care to, but also their emotional needs. Putting the emotional needs of another person before your own requires a lot of emotional labor and can cause burnout if left unchecked.
Caregiver burnout is often caused by the stresses associated with the job, which can eventually take a toll on the caregiver’s emotional, mental, and physical health if the stress is never dealt with. It is important to remember to take care of yourself.
What are the Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout?
Learning and recognizing the symptoms is the first step in preventing caregiver burnout. Some symptoms are:
- Anxiety, depression, and/or irritability
- The feeling of being tired and/or run-down
- Difficulty sleeping
- Neglecting personal responsibilities outside the realm of caregiving
- Cutting back on and/or eliminating leisure activities that bring you joy
- Trouble concentrating
- Drinking, smoking, and/or eating more
- Overreacting to minor occurrences
- Feeling increasingly resentful toward the person you are providing care for
- A significant decrease in energy
- More susceptible to illness/disease
- Constant exhaustion
- Ignoring your own physical, mental, and emotional needs
- Trouble relaxing
- Sense of helplessness and/or hopelessness
Does Being a Caregiver Shorten Your Life?
Being a caregiver is one of the most selfless things you can do, and sometimes you do not have a choice. The demands of caregiving can start to take a toll on a caregiver’s emotional, mental, and physical health, especially if the person they are taking care of is a close family friend or relative. These demands can often cause stress and burnout if the symptoms listed above are not dealt with. Severe caregiver burnout can not only affect the caregiver, but also the person they are taking care of, which is not a good situation for anyone.
According to the Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA), a study conducted by Ohio State University and the National Institute on Aging showed that “adult children caring for their parents, as well as parents caring for chronically ill children, may have their life span shortened by four to eight years” (Bursack, 2020). Now, if you are a caregiver, don’t worry. The simple act of being a caregiver won’t automatically shorten your life, but if you are starting to experience some of the symptoms of caregiver burnout, you might want to re-evaluate how you are dealing with the stresses associated with the job.
How to Cope and Deal with Caregiver Burnout
Coping and dealing with stress is not easy, but it can definitely be accomplished. The sense of powerlessness is one of the main contributors to caregiver stress and burnout. Finding a sense of empowerment is one of the sure-fire ways to avoid caregiver burnout and stress.
Practicing acceptance of your situation instead of actively hating it will help you feel a lot less stressed and burnt out. Redirecting the energy focused toward hating a situation that you can’t change to accepting the situation will bring more positivity into the actual act of caregiving. Embracing your choice to be a caregiver can also help you to cope and deal with caregiver burnout, because at the end of the day you are actively choosing to provide care to that person.
Looking for positivity in the caregiving experience, even if it’s as simple as enjoying a cup of tea with the person you are providing care to, will help you see the entire caregiving experience in a more positive light. Letting caregiving take over your life is also a main contributor to total burnout, so try to find time for the things that bring you joy.
About Inner Light Counseling LLC in Denver, CO
Rachel Moore LPC is a licensed Brainspotting therapist offering counseling for trauma, anxiety and self-esteem in the Denver metro area. She has over 10 years of experience working with patients who have anxiety and depression as well as providing caregiver support and resources who work in a variety of different roles.