Caregiver burnout is a very real thing. As a parent of an autistic child, maybe it even comes with the territory. We take on the role of caregiver, in addition to being parent. In some instances, we are primary parent and primary caregiver. And while I would not trade this for anything in the world, this is a very stressful situation. Caregiver burnout happens far more often than I think we are willing to acknowledge.
Here are 6 ways to prevent caregiver burnout.
Whether you are the parent of a physically or mentally disabled child or you are caring for an aging parent or spouse, caregiver stress and burnout are potential consequences.
It can be very demanding on your time, patience, and finances, to name a few.
If you have ever traveled on an airplane, you have probably noticed that the flight attendants always tell you that in case of a drop in cabin pressure, the oxygen masks will drop down for your use. They always tell you to put yours on first, and then attend to your children or other family members after attending to yourself. It is the same thing when it comes to being a good caregiver.
You MUST also take care of yourself first before you can give good care to others.
Caregiver stress and burnout are on a continuum. You can start out feeling stressed, but move into the more serious burnout stage when the stress remains chronic.
Common Signs of Caregiver Stress and Burnout That We Ignore
A few signs and symptoms of caregiver stress include:
* Feeling irritable
* Feeling resentful and frustrated
* Feeling run down
* Taking part less in your own activities that bring you enjoyment
As already mentioned, if you are not careful, this chronic stress can eventually lead to burnout.
Some signs and symptoms of burnout from caregiving include:
* You feel exhausted, and you do not feel better after sleeping
* You are constantly getting sick (ex. colds)
* You have headaches and other physical complaints
* You don’t have enough time to take care of yourself, nor do you feel like it
* You feel depressed
If any of this sounds familiar, I would encourage you to keep reading.
6 Tips for How to Prevent Caregiver Burnout as an Autism Mom (or Dad)
When you focus on being all things to everyone you start to lose who you are, leading to stress, resentment, feelings of being overwhelmed, and finally, the dreaded burnout. Here’s how you can prevent that from happening.
1. Focus On Your Needs First
When morning rolls around take care of your own needs first. When you wake up (raring to go or not) it’s tempting to just get right into the action, but don’t. How your day begins is how your day will proceed, so establish a routine that looks after your emotional and mental well-being, just as well as your physical.
Consider the following as part of your routine, reading while you enjoy your breakfast, meditation, yoga, a podcast, sitting in your backyard, a trip to the gym, focused breakfast, or really just about anything that fills you with happiness.
2. The Bedroom Is A Sanctuary
We’re all guilty of taking our mobile devices to bed and you probably have a list of reasons why it’s so important that you do so. When you wake up you probably reach for your phone before you do anything else, whether it’s to check emails or check out the latest news on social media.
This is radical thinking, I know, but find a real alarm and leave your gadgets out of the bedroom. You will fall asleep easier, sleep deeper, and even find getting up in the mornings easier, too. Once you’re up you’ll slip into your morning routine without the temptation of your phone looming.
3. Regular Breaks Are Key
When was the last time you finished a cup of coffee while it was still hot? Did you eat lunch, or even have a break? It’s one thing to slip into your flow and plow through your day, but your mind and body need a rest.
One effective method to ensure you are getting adequate breaks and focusing on your work is the Pomodoro technique. Adapt this for your needs as you see fit. You set a timer and work in 25-minute bursts and then take a five-minute break before starting the next cycle. Use those five minutes to get up and get moving.
4. Breaks For Breathing
Stress tends to restrict your breathing and if you pay, attention to how you’re breathing during your most tense moments you’ll realize it’s shallow. Proper breathing is crucial to your overall well-being, so you may want to use your breaks to indulge in some deep breathing. Close your eyes and turn your focus to breathing and quieting your mind.
5. Move To Feel Good
It doesn’t matter whether it’s yoga or dancing, walking or cycling, if it makes your body feel good then you should be embracing it! It will help you relieve tension and improve your mood. Any type of exercise will give you an endorphin boost and leave you feeling better, so even just 10 minutes of activity should be enough to improve your mood.
6. Set Boundaries
In truth, it is all about respecting your time and priorities because if you don’t then who will? Set boundaries with everyone in your life and be assertive as you stick to them. You don’t need to justify your no, so stop offering reasons to placate the masses and start focusing on yourself.
Burnout is totally preventable, but it takes a well-planned and deliberate effort. Don’t get sucked into the vortex of a busy life, where you ignore yourself and your needs, your wellness really depends on you!
In Closing? Keep these tips in mind to prevent caregiver burnout
Do not try to do it all by yourself. You need help from others. This may mean getting help from some of your family members. It may also mean requesting respite services. Some personal care homes/nursing homes offer respite beds for a two-week period so that it gives you a chance to rest and catch up on other things that you cannot do when caring for someone.
Build and nurture your support network as well.
Your family needs you, yes. Your children need you — of course.
But most importantly?
You need you.
Take care of yourself because you cannot pour from an empty cup.
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