Acknowledging Caregiver Burnout is the first step in preventing it happening to you. In your busy life or business who do you care for? Ok, let's face it, a woman of the new millennium wears a multitude of hats and goes about her day taking one off to put another on without batting an eyelash. It becomes so much a part of her routine she does it like brushing her teeth.
Before understanding the concept of burnout you must first examine who you actually have to care for. The list is endless with caring for children, possibly parents and / or grandparents, friends, your spouse or partner, co-workers, staff, your pets, sibling, a business partner and oh yeah yourself just to name a few. Now buckle up as we explore your other roles even deeper. Most women perform daily tasks that put them in other care giving rods such as – teachers, nurses, chauffeurs, cosmeticians, housekeepers, chefs, negotiators, bookkeepers, financial planners and advisors, peace-keepers, labourers, developers, designers, professional dieters, councilor, babysitter, and I could go on but you know where this is going!
I am exhausted just thinking about the fact that all of these hats are probably worn by you in one day and we did not even talk about any professional roles yet! Now take a look at what happens when your job list becomes too heavy.
The word neglect comes to mind, you have a short fuse, patience levels run thin, lack of interest in activities you used to enjoy, not spending time with who you want to, lack of money, physical ailments, sleepless nights, worry, the feeling of not getting anything accomplished, running in circles, no focus, anxiety, forgetting important tasks or dates, not eating properly due to lack of time to prepare healthy meals and most important not leaving any time for you. You may experience feelings of being put upon, overwhelmed, stressed out, fear, frustration and not being appreciated. In some cases this can lead to substance abuse while a host of other types of physical or emotional of a loved one that will require professional help.
Any or all of the triggers listed can lead to caregiver burnout. With that noted, lets take a look at what you can do to prevent it or alleviate it completely. First off, you have to recognize it starts with you. You make the choice of saying yes to everything in your life but you also have the choice to say no. I am not suggesting you say no to caring for an elderly parent that only has to do so but decide what is priority and what is not.
Saying NO can be liberating but it can also be the difference between burnout and managing things in your life effectively. You are the only one that can decide what is a priority in your life. Realizing when you are taking on too much and allowing someone else to perform a duty is critical.
The first step is fundamental in taking back control and stopping burnout in its tracks. Build your list – start with a large piece of paper divided into three columns, in the first column write the heading roles and duties I now perform; in the second column the heading roles and duties I can give away and to what; in the last column write the heading the roles and duties I will keep. This list may take you a few days to compile because you have to think about it. As a role or duty arises during your day write it down so you can capture them all. The secret it to be open to recognizing them all.
Once you feel confident the first column's list is complete take a close look at whom else other than you is capable of doing it, do not close any doors- possibly your children, your spouse, your sister, a professional caregiver, a housekeeper but believe me there is someone who can do the job next you! The other important key you need to recognize is that they may not do all things according to your standards but it will be done good enough and best of all its not you that had to do it all!
Keep your list on the fridge and a matching one at work. Adopt this attitude as new roles or duties arise and put them on the list – ask yourself if you are the only one that can do it, if you are being really honest with yourself and the answer is yes then move it to your keep it column . Be real with yourself and do not keep them all. If someone asks you to bake 200 cupcakes for the school bake sale tell them you will have to think about it before giving an answer. Write it on your list and if you are really the only mom that can make those cupcakes than DO IT, but only if it will not lead to feelings of overwhelm or resentfulness or take time away from something on your keep it list that is important to you.
This is your life and you have the choice to fill it with things you like or things you do not. The objective is to have more time and patience to spend with people you enjoy and doing activities that make you happy. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to do your keep it list, because when you are burnt out you are not an effective caregiver anyway. Everything positive will come out of doing the list with an opportunity of you acknowledging and preventing caregiver burnout before it happens to you.