Most women are primarily caregivers. We care for our children, our spouses and even our parents as they age.
It’s important that caregivers take time to care for ourselves. It can be hard to balance responsibilities at work and home while still having enough energy to focus on ourselves.
Burnout doesn’t strike overnight, but develops gradually over time. Suzanne Dextras, EdD, director of Ministry and Leadership Formation for Via Christi Health, shares the following steps of the burnout cycle that can affect caregivers.
- A compulsion to prove oneself often starts with excessive ambition, and the desire to prove themselves at work can turn into compulsion.
- Working harder to meet high personal expectations, they take on more work and buckle down.
- Neglecting their own needs for sleeping, eating and seeing friends and family, their focus turns to schedules.
- Displacement of conflicts means avoiding conflicts in order to prevent a crisis.
- Revision of values till the only standard for evaluation of self-worth is their job.
- Denial of emerging problems may begin with developing intolerance; social contacts feel almost unbearable.
- Withdrawal to a minimum of social contact can pair with increasing feelings they are without hope or direction.
- Obvious behavioral changes that others in their social circle can no longer overlook.
- Depersonalization means losing contact with themselves and beginning to see neither themselves nor others as valuable.
- Inner emptiness can lead to desperately seek activity to overcome the feeling. Overreactions such as overeating or drug and alcohol abuse may emerge.
- Depression, a consequence of being overwhelmed, lets people become indifferent, hopeless and exhausted.
- Burnout syndrome will ultimately end in mental and physical collapse. Those in this category need immediate medical attention as suicidal thoughts may arise.
How can you, as a caregiver, avoid burnout?
- Have an honest prayer life. Take a few minutes each day to place yourself in silence and solitude to gather your thoughts and feelings before moving on to the next task.
- Find balance in your schedule. Counsel yourself about why your life might not be balanced and set priorities to better balance your life.
- Practice self-nurturance. Find people who support you and what you do, who can help you establish perspective.
- Engage in healthy intimacy with others. Relationships help us understand ourselves and others; distancing is not healthy.
- Develop the ability to deal with negative emotions. Anger needs to be recognized and addressed directly.
- Develop the ability to deal with negative emotions. Anger needs to be recognized and addressed directly. Listen to what you are saying (your tone and emotion). When you are fatigued or out of sorts and take out your frustration on someone, instead say, “I am really tired and stressed today, so don’t take what I said personally.” Not only is this respectful to the listener, it also is healing for the speaker.) Spending time with a trusted confidante, counselor or spiritual director is a great way of sharing and listening.
- Learn to put failure in perspective. The more we’re involved, the more likely we are to fail. It’s OK to be a person, on the way to being who you are supposed to be.