Caregiver burnout can be described as a state of complete exhaustion, where you face many mental, physical, and emotional blocks. When this occurs, caring for patients takes a downhill turn. Our brains can put a negative spin on our emotions in times of unmanaged stress, allowing room for unproductive thoughts and even an emotional disconnection from our patients.
You may even find that you carry over your negative attitude to your personal life, making you feel short-tempered and uninterested in your loved ones. It is hard to show up emotionally day after day when dealing with patient deaths, their families, and meeting really great individuals in unfortunate circumstances. Burnout can, and will, take its toll on you both physically, and emotionally if left untreated.
Being a caregiver can be so mentally draining, that you might feel yourself sinking into a depressive state, at times. It’s hard to recover when you get to that point, so it is important that you are aware of some of the signs and symptoms of a professional experiencing burnout.
Here are some common signs that you may be experiencing burnout:
- You are neglecting your personal responsibilities
- You are neglecting your personal health and wellness
- You feel down and constantly exhausted
- Activities that used to bring you pleasure, no longer do
- You are increasingly short-tempered with the person/people you are caring for
- You find yourself going through the motions of caring without any sort of satisfaction
Burnout is different from stress. While stress can make you feel strung out and anxious, it usually subsides when you are not at work. Burnout makes you feel hopeless, lethargic, uninterested, and generally unmotivated. It’s important to have a plan for prevention when you feel burnout creeping up on you.
- Prioritize things that bring you enjoyment. Make time for activities and people who generally lift you up. It might be a good time to explore new hobbies, too.
- Connect with someone you can talk openly with. It’s important to discuss your frustrations and feelings in an environment where you feel comfortable and safe. If you don’t have a strong support system, you can work with a licensed therapist to give you an outlet.
- Reach out to your manager for support and ask for help when needed. People often forget that a part of a manager’s role is to help employees stay happy and effective in their roles.
- Reaching out to socialize with coworkers is very helpful. Build comradery with your colleagues — it can help you improve and enjoy your day-to-day work. Coworkers can relate to what you are going through unlike most of your friends and family. They may offer you real solutions as they have likely experienced similar situations.
- Take time to improve your physical health. Make sure you are eating a well-balanced diet and moving your body daily. This will help you boost endorphins and sharpen your focus.
- Take breaks when needed. Knowing when to take a step back is important. Learn a few relaxation techniques that work well for you. You can’t simply give all that you have all day long. Make sure you schedule time to eat and clear your mind during your shifts.
- Take time off. Use your vacation time or PTO to really unplug from work and recharge. Do something that you enjoy with your time away from work so that you can return and feel refreshed.
- Set professional boundaries. Understand the value that you bring as a great caregiver and don’t be afraid to say no to tasks that make you uncomfortable, stressed, and don’t add value for the patient. Reevaluate the schedule of your day to see if you might be able to adjust times or even delegate tasks to others.
- Allow time for creative outlets. Revisit a hobby or take a class you have been wanting to try. It can be as simple as finishing up some projects around the house or breaking out that old sewing machine.
- Carve out time for distraction-free relaxation. It’s important to set a routine at work and home so you can be productive, and it’s equally important to set some relaxation time into your week. You could try yoga or meditation, or even just a relaxing bath and a restful sleep at the end of a long day.
Luckily since more health care professionals are willing to share in their experience of feeling burdened with workplace stress and burnout, many employers are offering support at the workplace. There are even support groups for health care professionals online. Recognizing the signs of caregiver burnout and seeking assistance are the most important steps in regaining your happiness and fulfillment at work.