December 01, 2023
Coping with S.A.D.
It is not uncommon for primary caregivers to experience a deep exhaustion whether it be within a few months or many years caring for their loved ones. This isn’t to say they don’t love their significant other, their parents, in-laws, or siblings. In fact it’s likely the complete opposite. However, as with anything done in great repetition, it can be emotionally draining given time.
Even if it’s not an official occupation for them, something as mentally taxing as primary caregiving almost implies that at some point they will feel burnt out. Such an inevitability is understandable because the responsibility of maintaining the wellbeing of a loved one 24/7 is a heavy weight to carry for one person. Sadly, this nuance is not often discussed nor acknowledged. It can come with its own set of drawbacks as it discourages primary caregivers from coming to terms with what they’re going through and how to navigate bouncing back from it.
Caring for one’s self in the grand scheme of healthcare is equally as important as caring for others. That being said, here are seven signs that you may be experiencing primary caregiver burnout:
1. An overall lack of energy
It may be that you consistently feel tired or low on energy. This is possibly an indicator that you’ve taken on too much in your work life and aren’t giving yourself ample time to recuperate from shifts. Putting the needs of loved ones in need first is expected, but can lead to general neglect of your own necessary practices.
2. No motivation for hobbies or “me time”
To compensate for feelings of guilt surrounding doing something that brings personal enjoyment unrelated to a loved one, primary caregivers may stop engaging in activities they once really liked. Rather than spend time with these activities, you may find yourself subconsciously preoccupied with the state of the person in your care, even as you attempt to rest.
3. Stress and anxiety
Being a primary caregiver – particularly for a family member – can be a huge commitment for someone as oftentimes the responsibility is sprung onto them without prior warning. The desire to shoulder this responsibility on your own can be strong. However, your brain could get clouded by the overwhelming nature of caring for someone else on your own. Taking a step back from that mindset in order to regain a calm head may be necessary especially if your emotions cannot uphold your obligations.
4. Isolating yourself and withdrawing from interaction
Considering how involved you are in someone else’s life routine when caregiving, it’s no surprise that your social battery can drain pretty quickly as you care for your loved one. As such, you may withdraw from interaction with friends and other family in order to capture some rare alone time. Try to be mindful about whether or not the only person you’re surrounding yourself with is the one you are giving care to.
5. Physical illness or un-wellness
As stated before, your physical health can also take a huge hit from being neglectful of your own needs in the midst of being a primary caregiver. With limited rest and relaxation, your immune system can deteriorate and leave you feeling unwell even if you feel as though you haven’t done anything to warrant falling ill.
6. Increased impatience and irritation with the person you’re caring for
A mixture of the aforementioned symptoms can be the catalyst of you feeling extremely frustrated with yourself, your situation, and/or your loved one. It’s important not to misdirect this anger if and when it comes to light as it could negatively affect your relationship with the person you’re in charge of. Instead, find a healthier way to cope with this change of heart such as journaling, reaching out to someone to talk to, or even finding something calming to do in your alone time that will ease the tension. It’s understandable that things can get very overwhelming very fast, but it’s pivotal that you work through these emotions rather than lash out.
7. Feelings of helplessness or uselessness
In the wake of caring for someone who is in a rather deteriorative state, there may come a time when you feel as though there are little to no direct results of your hard work or that you have failed to make a difference in your loved one’s daily life. It can be difficult to reconcile with yourself that it’s not your job to cure them – rather it’s your job to make their day to day routine a little easier on them. The little things you do make all the difference, so if you find yourself feeling hopeless as time goes on, try to remind yourself that your best is enough.
There are plenty other signs of primary caregiver burnout, but these seven are the most obvious and easiest to recuperate from once noticed. It is okay to feel any or all of these because you yourself are only human and you’ve been tasked with something that most likely deeply affects your private life: taking care of someone you love. In that great effort will come a wave of gratefulness from your loved one because taking care of yourself is just as important as taking great care of others.
Article by: Ryshel Constantino
Images obtained from Unsplash.com