How to Spot Caregiver Burnout
I come from a family of caregivers – nurses, social workers, therapists, friends, etc. My mother, her sister and mother, my sisters, even me in a lot of ways, are all caregivers. When I was growing up, I remember my mom telling me once “I have to keep asking myself ‘who cares for the caregiver?'” It was rare, but every now and then I could see when she was starting to burn out and, what I realized was that the only one who can care for the caregiver is the caregiver. Much like the speech the flight attendants give you about your masks on an airplane, caregivers have to care for themselves first and foremost – otherwise they can’t care for anyone.
The problem is that, more often than not, everyone else sees the symptoms of burnout in us long before we can recognize them in ourselves. So how do we recognize those symptoms in ourselves? Here are a few signs to be on the lookout for:
Do you find yourself furious when someone spills a glass of milk and then, when you go down to clean it up, sitting on the floor crying and feeling helpless? These kinds of mood swings, or even other, seemingly less intense swings, can be a clear indicator of burnout. Your life has changed in huge ways so those feelings are natural but make sure that you’re treating any anxiety or depression you might be feeling.
You Find Yourself Getting Sick A Lot
Remember, stress doesn’t only affect your mood, it can hit your immune system, too. If you start catching every bug that comes your way, realize that your body is trying to tell you something. Pay attention to it before something serious comes around that puts you down for a long time. Keep up with regularly scheduled checkups and make sure that the crux of your diet doesn’t spiral into a fast food fix because you’re too busy to make real food.
You’re Overreacting to Minor Annoyances
We all do it from time to time – someone’s tapping their pen on the table over and over again and instead of asking them to stop you grab it out of their hand and snap it in two in front of their face with a look that would make a giant quiver. If you find yourself snapping like that, recognize that it’s time to take a break.
Caregiver burnout is a real risk and it needs to be recognized as such. We all have the tendency to think that we’re superhuman and can handle anything that life throws at us but that’s just not the case. These certainly aren’t the only signs of caregiver burnout but they’re the ones that you should be able to see in yourself. If you find yourself in these situations, find someone to help. Find someone to carry the caregiver torch for a few hours, shut off your phone and go do something – see a movie, meet a friend for dinner, go to a spa – just make sure that you’re taking care of yourself because, if the caregiver’s not cared for, no one else will be either.