Carer burnout affects those overwhelmed by caring responsibilities for a loved one. Susannah Hickling shares advice for avoiding burnout
Many people look after a loved one, but it can take a toll on your mental and physical health. You can help by adopting some self-care strategies.
Know the signs
Caring can be very stressful, so be alert to the warning signs that it’s all getting too much so that you can do something about it.
"You can help by adopting some self-care strategies"
Anxiety or feeling unhappy most of the time, being angry or irritable, including with the person you’re looking after, exhaustion, eating too much or too little, resorting to alcohol to calm yourself and sleep problems should all ring alarm bells.
There are physical signs too, such as feeling dizzy or breathless, and even cramps and chest pains.
Talk about it
Accept your difficult feelings—you’re perfectly entitled to feel negative about your situation—and discuss them with family and friends. Have someone you can vent to from time to time. Consider joining a local carers’ group.
Make sure to talk about your feelings, whether to a friend or a therapist
As well as sharing experiences, you may also find it useful in getting information about ways in which you might get a break from caring. Contact your GP if you feel it’s affecting your health.
Do one thing at a time
Try to tackle one task at a time, and be prepared to say no sometimes.
Have a list of back-up carers
You cannot be expected to carry the whole burden of caring. Try to organise a small network of people who can help out from time to time.
Don’t ignore your own life
Ministering to the needs of someone can be all-engulfing. But make sure you nurture your own relationship, as well as friendships.
Schedule quality time with loved ones
Make a date—a regular one if possible—with your significant other or with a good friend, or commit time to an activity—for example a hobby or TV show—and stick to it. The important thing is to schedule in some “me time”, however brief.
Exercise every day
Physical activity is a great stress reliever and will mitigate the effects of carer burnout on your mind and body. Even a brisk walk to the supermarket can help. But exercise needs to be consistent.
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