Emotional Exhaustion from Caregiving

Emotional Exhaustion from Caregiving and How to Deal with It

As a caregiver, you might suffer from emotional and mental exhaustion. This kind of stress can give you a case of caregiver emotional exhaustion. It can also put your health at risk. What are the signs of emotional exhaustion and what should you do about it?
The signs of caregiver burnout

In this article we will cover:

emotional exhaustion in caregivers Infographic

The signs of caregiver burnout

Caregiver burnout presents in different ways for everyone and can significantly decline a caregiver’s quality of life. The mix of role confusion, exhaustion, and unrealistic expectations can result in a downward spiral. This is especially critical when the caregiver does not recognize that they are about to hit a breaking point. If you feel mental and physically exhausted is time to look for help.
To gain a better understanding of caregiver burnout, it’s essential to know how to identify the most common caregiver symptoms:

  • Lack of energy
  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • Feeling sick (e.g. cold or flu)
  • Neglecting of own needs
  • Inability to relax
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Increased irritability

The caregiver symptoms above are just some of the signs of caregiver burnout. The feelings of hopelessness can lead to you becoming more impatient, argumentative and irritable. When these moods are suppressed, one may view smoking, drinking, and eating more food as way to cope. The activities you once found joy in are now ones that you avoid due to either a lack of time or a lack of interest. However, it’s important to note that this is not how it has to be.

Caregiver Symptoms Can Be Improved

While it may seem like caregiving is taking over all aspects of your life, there are options to prevent and/or cope with caregiver burnout. Caregivers should not accept that being depressed and anxious is how it has to be. They also do not have to continuously tolerate an upset stomach and the headaches that result from stress.
A caregiver can have leisure and participate in fun activities that they enjoy. In fact, they should do those things. Recognizing common caregiver symptoms and burnout can help you learn how to create balance in your life. Some suggestions may include:

  • Learning a new hobby
  • Attending church
  • Hanging with friends

Emotional Traps for Dementia Caregivers

It’s very stressful caring for a loved one who has dementia or any other chronic disease. It can trigger some unhealthy emotions, which can harm your health. These emotions can also undermine your self-confidence. Below are some of these emotions, what causes it and the risks they evoke.

Guilt

Guilt is from doing what you believe may be the wrong thing to do. Or not doing enough of what you perceive as the right choices. But it’s a no-win situation and puts unnecessary strain on you. It’s a corrosive emotion because you’re berating yourself over misperceived faults. Ones that couldn’t be avoided because you’re human.

Resentment

It’s an intense emotion and caregivers are afraid to admit that they have it. It rises in caregivers when they don’t have enough help and leads to the caregiver symptoms mentioned above. You could start to resent the members of the family who have a normal life. You can even start disliking the family member that you are caring for.

Anger

There are reasons for anger, and you may show it inwardly or outwardly. You could be angry because of unfair criticism by another family member. Plus, maybe you don’t get enough sleep and your temper is short. The bad thing about chronic anger is that this can cause a variety of health issues. These could include digestive-tract disorders, headaches, heart attack, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Loneliness

Loneliness shrinks your world before you even realize it. One day you’re out with friends enjoying life. Suddenly, you’re taking full-time care of a family member. Because you don’t have the time you need, you’ve dropped out of any outside activities. Also, if your loved one has dementia, every day they slip away.

Grief

Someone doesn’t have to die to grieve. There’s a reason why dementia is called “the slow death.” When you’re a caregiver taking care of someone who has a chronic illness, anticipatory grief isn’t uncommon. If you believe that you can’t grieve someone who is still alive, then this could be a risk for depression.

In Conclusion

To cope with these emotions and the exhaustion it causes, give yourself a break. Ask for help when needed, or hire a care team to come in for Respite Care. Don’t feel guilty about the respite care. You wouldn’t feel guilty about using a doctor. Get up earlier for some “me” time. Eat right, exercise and try to get enough sleep. Take walks, see some friends; even just take a long relaxing bath.
Taking care of yourself is important. If you don’t, who is going to?

Sources:

https://www.caring.com/articles/7-deadly-emotions-of-caregiving
http://www.aarp.org/home-family/caregiving/info-11-2012/managing-caregiver-emotions.html