While caring for a loved one is very rewarding, the demands of caregiving can be overwhelming. Carers often experience feelings of being in over their head or having little control over the situation. This can cause a significant amount of stress for the caregiver, taking a toll on their health, relationships, and state of mind.
If left unchecked, this can lead to caregiver burnout. Caregiver burnout is a state of exhaustion (emotionally, mentally, and physically) that is the result of the prolonged and overwhelming stress of caregiving. When a carer burns out, it’s difficult for them to do anything, particularly to look after someone else. So, as a carer, looking after yourself is essential.
The following tips can help you make sure that you are looking after yourself so that you don’t reach the burnout stage.
1. Have Some Quality Time with Others
As a carer, it can be easy to get consumed into your role and your responsibilities to the loved one you are looking after. However, if you withdraw from others you are more likely to feel isolated, which can increase the risk of depression.
It’s important to remember that you are not in it alone. Reach out to close friends or relatives and ensure you continue to have relationships with others. The best “time out” for carers is often the time that they spend with other members of the family to create a sense of unity. The key here is to have quality time where you can relax, laugh and enjoy yourself.
2. Focus on the Positive
If you start to feel down about your situation as a caregiver, changing your perception can help. Work out what you are feeling, whether that is angry, sad or frustrated and identify who or what is truly responsible for this feeling. Listen to what you are saying to yourself and write down those statements. If the statements describe your situation as ‘difficult’ or ‘terrible’ this will not be helping with your negative feelings.
Ask yourself what you can do now about your situation and what will help you to get out of the negativity. By doing this, you can make a plan for a solution that will improve your situation and frame of mind. Alternatively, if you have no control over the situation, being able to identify that and learning ways of coping with it can help you to keep moving on positively.
3. Use Respite Services
Respite care can allow both the carer and the person that they care for to take a break. This service can be on an informal basis through family or friends, or formally organised by a respite service. There are a variety of options available for respite, and some people may prefer respite at home, while others choose community or centre-based services.
While it’s natural for carers to worry about leaving the person that they care for, it’s important to remember that regular breaks are very important for carers. Planning a break in advance can help avoid a build up of stress, as you know you have that to look forward to.
4. Love Yourself
It can be easy to focus on the negative – what we’ve not managed to get done in a day, things that we could have done better, or the difficult emotions that come with caregiving. The most important thing is to accept that no one is perfect. Everyone has their own flaws, weaknesses, and limitations, as well as strengths and good qualities.
Experiencing sadness or frustration about your situation is natural. This only becomes a problem if the emotions are not dealt with or if the carer feels guilty about having negative feelings. It’s important to remember that you are only human and you’ll experience negative emotions and make mistakes. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself and focus on all the good things that you are doing.
5. Learn to Relax
Last but not least, it’s important to take some time to relax. Your to-do list may seem never ending but it’s important to make some time for yourself to do something that you enjoy. Take the time to do an activity that calms your spirit, like meditation, exercise, or walking in nature. Alternatively, read a book or start a new hobby such as painting, drawing, playing an instrument, or doing puzzles. Music is another great way to relax – even just listening to a CD at home or listening to music as you go for groceries. Alternatively, enjoying music in a group setting can be an excellent way to socialise and make connections with like-minded people. If you’re looking for a program in your area, consider the Ageless Grace® program that immerses participants in music, memory, and movement and encourages good mental health.
For more information on Ageless Grace® or other Brain Sparks programs, don’t hesitate to get in touch.