There are so many caregivers in the world. When we think of caregivers, we think of careers such as nurses, counselors, social workers, etc. They are all caregivers but caregivers are also you and I.
Do you take care of your kids? Your parents? Take care of people in your career? Take care of a sick pet? etc...
Caregiver fatigue is a state of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. Caregivers can become frustrated due to unrealistic expectations, unreasonable demands, or a feeling of losing control in their lives or situation.
Let's look at signs of caregiver fatigue and ways to cope.
Withdrawal from friends, family and other loved ones.
Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed.
Feeling blue, irritable, hopeless and helpless.
Changes in appetite, weight or both.
Changes in sleep patterns.
Getting sick more often-low immune system.
Feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person for whom you are caring.
Emotional and physical exhaustion.
Irritability, snappy, mood changes.
Managing Caregiver Fatigue - Give yourself a break
1. This is a moment of suffering - give yourself permission to feel the suffering. This is being mindful. It might feel like: This hurts, Ouch, I’m so stressed, I’m so sad, etc. It's important that we can be mindful of what we are feeling, identify and acknowledge it.
2. Suffering is a part of life - This is the one thing we all have in common as humans, we all suffer. Remind yourself – you're not alone, others are feeling the same way or similar and we all have struggles/challenges in our lives.
3. Kindness - How can I be kind to myself? What do I need to hear right now to express kindness to myself? Use such phrases as:
May I accept myself and the situation as is - acceptance is a key factor in healing. We can't control anyone but ourselves.
May I forgive myself - for not being the perfect caregiver, parent, nurse, teacher, etc. Remember there is no such thing as perfect.
May I be Strong - realize how strong you already are
May I be patient - with the situation, yourself and others
May I be empathetic - learn to be an empathetic listener even if you don't understand their situation, we can understand the emotions behind their situation. We all know what it feels like to be angry, scared, hurt, nervous, confused, etc.
4. Change your words - to lower stress, work on reducing the amount and intensity of negative self talk, while increasing positive self talk.
Interrupt negative thoughts with the word “stop.” When you notice yourself saying something negative say stop (in your head or out loud) and visualize something that represents stop like a stop or yield sign, a red light, etc.
When you notice your saying things such as: “I can’t handle this” or “this is impossible”, etc. Reframe the sentences/thoughts to How can I handle this? What solutions can I come up with? Who can I brainstorm ideas with? Who can I ask for help?
Remember you can't take care of the other person if you are burned out. Take care of you.