Therapists and caregivers are only human – it is a simple truth that is often forgotten. Sometimes we get so caught up in caring for others that we forget to care for ourselves. As selfish as it may feel to care for ourselves, it is one of the most important things we can do to help the people we serve.
The idea of being burned out may be a new concept for some. For those unfamiliar with the concept, it means that a person has cared so much for other people that they have nothing left to give. Their vessel is empty. Burnout is a natural consequence of putting others’ needs before our own consistently, and never taking the time to step back and look at what we may need. We regularly put others’ needs before our own but we should not neglect our needs in the process.
We cannot serve effectively if we are not rested and at our best. Recognizing these signs of burnout is important for knowing when we are reaching our limits:
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities
- Emotional and physical exhaustion
- Lack of empathy for those we serve
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Increases in physical illness
Knowing what to do about burnout is just as important as knowing the signs. Once we recognize we are reaching our limits, we definitely need to take time to rest and replenish ourselves. However, ideally, we want to set up a regular routine of self-care which can help prevent the onset of burnout. Some examples include:
- Confiding in trusted family members or friends about our frustrations.
- Being realistic about how much we can manage and delegating accordingly.
- Engaging in physical activities such as walking, exercising, or a sport which can help to reduce stress.
- Scheduling time to rest or engage in recreational activities and being firm with our commitment.
- Eating healthy meals and making sleep a priority.
- Taking vacations.
Burnout is inevitable. It is not something that we can avoid. However, we can be proactive about self-care and rest in order to minimize the frequency and intensity of the burnout we experience. It is the best thing we can do for ourselves and for the people we serve.
Perspectives can help the caregiver, too. You need not walk alone. Call 248-244-8644 to make an appointment with an experienced, confidential and caring therapist.