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Dear Caregivers, You Need to Care for Yourselves, Too

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Caregivers give of themselves continually. They are constantly helping others. The caregiver role can have many different appearances. No matter what form the care comes in, all caregivers care for someone else in some way. Quite often they are so busy caring for others they neglect themselves. This can lead to caregiver burnout.

Caregiver Burnout

Burnout can occur to anyone for a myriad of reasons. Work burnout, volunteer burnout, parenting burnout and caregiver burnout. Burnout is when someone becomes physically and emotionally exhausted from performing a tough job over a period of time. It can also come from long periods of stress usually related to the situation of the job. Caregivers can begin to feel frustrated, ineffective in their care, cynical or resentful. When these feelings arise, they are often followed by guilt for having these feelings. Caregivers should not feel guilty, though. These are common emotions and to feel them is normal.

Care for the Caregivers

Caregivers should care for themselves to prevent burnout. If they do not care for themselves, they will eventually have no care left to give to others. If you are a caregiver, here are some ways you can care for yourself:

  • imageGet a massage. Massages relax the muscles and work out tension in the body. Plus, they feel great!
  • Go out with friends. Socializing with others helps to reduce stress and lets people relax and get away from the stress of caregiving.
  • Watch a good comedy. Laughing helps to release endorphins that trigger positive feelings, reduce perception of pain and increase energy. One of my all time favorites is Napoleon Dynamite. Not much thinking needed, but plenty to laugh about.
  • Get a manicure or pedicure. These typically include a small hand or foot message which is relaxing and can make you feel good about doing something for yourself.
  • Read a book. Find a quiet place to read a book, which can give your mind a good getaway from daily life.
  • Join a support group. There are support groups in most towns for caregivers. They are there to help encourage and lift you up in your journey.
  • Get counseling. Most people could use some counseling; caregivers can benefit greatly. A counselor can help you work through your emotions and help to find a support group.
  • Join a Bible study. If you practice a religion, there are many studies for caregivers or for studying a particular component of the Bible or other religious text. These can be in a group setting or on an individual basis.
  • imageColor. There are so many adult coloring books out now. Coloring is very relaxing. Most adults haven’t colored since elementary school. Try it and see how relaxing it is.

Guard Against Burnout

If you are a caregiver, please guard yourself against burnout. Your mind and body as well as your family will thank you for it. Find a way to relax, whether that means using one of the examples listed or finding your own way. Relaxing and caring for yourself is healthy and necessary. If there is no care for the caregiver, the caregiver may not be able to care for others any longer. My role as a caregiver is minimal in comparison to others I’ve met. Even with my role I try to care for myself. I am not the best at it; my sister reminded me the other day I must take care of myself to be around for others. I will schedule a massage for myself occasionally or get my hair done. Coloring is something I’ve recently done. Puzzles also relax me. Are you a caregiver, and if so, do you neglect yourself? How do you protect yourself from burnout?

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Originally published: December 19, 2016
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