Sometimes when a person is caring for someone, they may begin to put their needs aside to ensure their loved one is taken care of. A carer may not get enough sleep or to eat, and sometimes might even miss their own medical appointments because they are focusing much of their time on caring. When more and more time is required of a person, things like physical, emotional, and mental health may be placed on the back burner. Over time this can cause extreme exhaustion and stress, also called burnout.
- What is burnout?
When a person is experiencing burnout, they are emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted because of prolonged stress. People who are in helping positions (i.e. doctors, nurses, carers, etc.) often experience burnout to a higher degree because they must give up much of their time and energy to assist others in need. Much of this person’s personal needs may be put on hold to help others, which over time can cause burnout symptoms to arise.
- Signs of burnout
Aside from feeling stressed, there are many other physical and emotional signs of burnout that you can look out for. Because those who are burnt out have experienced prolonged stress, they will likely also have a lack of energy and feel fatigued often during the day. Sleeping problems are also common among those with burnout. Issues with sleep can, in turn, cause things like irritability, mood swings, argumentative attitudes, difficulty concentrating, and impatience. Changes in appetite are also common, whether it be eating more than normal or less than normal. When someone is experiencing burnout, they may also have difficulty coping with common, everyday stressors because they are dealing with very high levels of stress on a daily basis. Burnout can take a toll on a person’s immune system as well, causing lower levels of immunity that can ultimately increase one’s chances of getting colds or the flu.
- Burnout Prevention
Preventing burnout may seem impossible when you are needing to care for someone each day. Doing small things each day that you enjoy and that allows you to take some time for yourself can make a huge difference in your life. Simple things such as taking a quick 15-minute walk, having a cup of tea or coffee in the mornings, or spending a couple of hours outside of the house can help tremendously. When you feel stress and fatigue starting to pile up, you may be on the verge of burnout. Asking for help and support is okay, and it can help to take some of the responsibility from you so that you can focus on your own wellbeing. Following a routine can also help prevent burnout. Setting up times that you will wake up in the morning and go to bed at night can help you to have a consistent sleep schedule. Creating to-do lists and goal charts may also be helpful for some, as it can allow for organisation and ultimately let you be less stressed because everything that needs to be done is all laid out in front of you.
Burnout is something that many carers experience, but they are often unaware that they are facing it. Understanding how to spot the signs of burnout when going about your caring role can be helpful for your own health, as well as the wellbeing of the person that you are caring for. You cannot be the best carer you can be if you are feeling irritable, stressed, and overworked. Knowing how to prevent and combat burnout can help you to get back to being the person and carer that you really are!
If you have been caring for a loved one and feel like you may beginning to develop signs of burnout, Suffolk Carers Matter is here for you. We offer free support, advice, and guidance and even have a free counselling service available should you need it!
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