If you’re caring for someone with a serious illness, you know the road can be tough. Caregiving can wear you down emotionally and physically and make it hard to respond to others. Here are some tips to avoid burnout and be ready for the task of caregiving.
1. Know your limits
If you can understand your own needs, vulnerabilities and limits, you can anticipate and counteract stress. Here’s how:
- Recognize when you can’t handle something alone. Learn to say, “I need help.”
- Recognize the limits and fluctuations of your physical energy. If you’re feeling run down, learn to say, “I can’t do that right now.”
- Know the warning signs of excessive stress. If you ignore them, you could get seriously ill yourself, either physically or emotionally. Learn to say, “I need time to myself.”
- Express yourself. If you’re dealing with complex emotions, it’s important to communicate your needs and wishes. Find someone you trust with whom you can safely share your feelings. It gets easier with practice.
2. Take care of yourself
You’ll be a better caregiver when you emotionally replenish and nurture yourself outside the duties of caregiving. Be attentive to your:
- Physical needs. Exercise, sleep and good nutrition all play important roles in reducing the debilitating effects of stress.
- Emotional and social needs. Many studies show that social supports can decrease the effects of stress, so develop and use your support network. Hope Hospice offers many support groups to the public.
- Spiritual needs. Caring for someone who is suffering or dying provokes questions about the meaning of life and death. Having a system of values and beliefs can help you cope. Learn more about the importance of spiritual support.
3. Enjoy yourself
Caregiving is serious work, and it’s easy to neglect your need to play, celebrate life and show your affection for others. Keep these tips in mind:
- Avoid the super-person syndrome. You can’t do it all. Decide what you can and cannot accomplish, and then negotiate a fair division of labor at work and at home.
- Make time for yourself. Take regular breaks during the day to do something by yourself. Use days off to replenish yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually.