Out of love, out of obligation, or maybe out of a sense of simply doing what’s right by your loved one, you may have suddenly found yourself in the shoes of 1 out of 2.5 million unpaid carers in Australia.
There is no doubt that being a carer for a loved one is rewarding. However, the role often comes with a price tag of sacrificing your quality of life in order to meet the needs of another. It’s a formula for high stress and debilitating exhaustion, especially if you do not dedicate the time to take care of your own physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
The signs of carer burnout include:
- Changes in eating habits, either eating for comfort or losing your appetite
- Physical exhaustion, where you feel tired most of the time
- Withdrawing from, or losing interest in, activities you once enjoyed
- Becoming unusually impatient, irritable or argumentative
- Frequent emotional swings
- High levels of fear or anxiety
- Lowered immunity resulting in frequent sickness
- Feeling a sense of guilt or shame, or doubting your ability to assist the person you care for
- Loss of compassion, or feeling resentful of the person you care for
Many of these symptoms are also experienced in a depressive episode and can feel just as overwhelming. If you feel you are experiencing these symptoms it’s important to act now and prevent the effects of burnout becoming even more consuming or devastating.
Five strategies that can be helpful in preventing burnout include:
1. Join a carer support group
One way to help cope with the challenges or isolation you might feel as a carer is to join a carer support group. Being part of a group can help you feel understood. The right group can give you practical and emotional support and let you share experiences. If you can’t attend meetings, some groups offer telephone support or online forums where carers can connect with others and offer tips, information and emotional support.
2. Dedicate time to keeping healthy and active
If you spend a lot of time caring for others, you’ll know that it can be physically and emotionally challenging. Finding the time and the motivation to eat well, sleep well and exercise can be hard to do but it’s worth the effort. Not only will this help you relieve stress, it will also release chemicals in your brain that make you feel happier and more positive. If you’re unable to go for a brisk 20-minute walk each day, try and break up the time in to 3-5 minute chunks throughout your day.
3. Foster your social connections
It’s easy to lose touch with the outside world when you’re busy caring for a loved one. However, friends are especially important during times of crisis or turbulence. Reach out to a trusted friend for encouragement and support and stick to the plan to catch up. Try to see other people at least once a week, whether you’re out with friends or visiting with someone in your home.
4. Pencil in a regular date with yourself
“I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.” – Audre Lorde
As fluffy and indulgent as the phrase “self care” may sound, it’s crucial to your functioning as a carer and a human being. Pencil in a regular break and gift yourself with people, places, things, events and opportunities that recharge your batteries and promote your wellbeing. Then, do everything you can to defend these dates with yourself. This might mean learning to say no to things or scheduling your loved one’s activities around your own occasionally. It’s important to know this is OK to do.
5. Ask for help
If you feel that you’re at your limit, put your hand up and ask for help. Consider reaching out to family, friends and neighbours to help out where they can. If your loved one needs more assistance than you can offer, reach out to a trusted home care provider and ask about what formal help is available.
If you have a loved one in need of home care services, book a complimentary care consultation with My Care Solution today. My Care Solution provides quality in-home care and support services to help older people across Adelaide and the Fleurieu Peninsula live independently.
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