Caregiver fatigue is something many spousal caregivers face when taking care of their ill or disabled partner. As the demands of constant caregiving become overwhelming, fatigue starts to sink in and without the proper approach this can lead to depression, anxiety and burnout, causing you to be unable to care for someone else.
Overcoming fatigue for spousal caregivers comes down to an issue of self-care and self-compassion, as there are plenty of things one can include in their daily routine – not as a luxury, but as a necessity – in order to regain a sense of joy, hope and balance that helps you continue offering the loving care and assistance your loved one requires.
What Is Caregiver Fatigue And Burnout?
Caregiver burnout is a sense of mental, physical and emotional fatigue caused by the prolonged stress of caregiving. While taking care of your loved one’s health can be very rewarding, it can also become overwhelming at times, and as this is often a long-term task, if you don’t get the emotional and physical support you need then stress builds up, resulting in anxiety, depression and burnout, which makes both you and the person you’re caring for suffer.
As a spousal caregiver, it can be particularly disheartening knowing that regardless of your efforts your loved one’s condition can’t be improved or in some cases may worsen as time comes. This is why handling the emotional and physical burden of it all is essential for you to continue providing a loving, safe and healthy environment for the person you’re caring for.
In this sense, managing the stress on your daily life is just as important as making sure your loved one doesn’t miss their doctor’s appointments. Regardless of how stressful or overwhelming your responsibilities may seem, overcoming fatigue for spousal caregivers can be done.
Common Signs And Symptoms Of Caregiver Fatigue And Burnout
As you begin to recognize the symptoms and signs of fatigue, you’ll be better prepared to tackle them as they come, engaging in self-care activities that can keep them at bay.
Some common signs of caregiver fatigue and burnout are:
- Anxiety, depression and irritability
- Feeling tired and hopeless
- Difficulty sleeping
- Drinking, smoking or eating more
- New or worsening health issues
- Problems concentrating and handling your responsibilities
- Feeling increasingly resentful
- Neglecting your own needs and leisure time
- Having trouble relaxing even when there’s help around
- Feeling impatient and irritated towards the person you’re caring for
If you identify any of these signs or symptoms then it’s time to take a step back and start the possibility for balance to come back into your life. Practicing self-care and self-compassion should become part of your daily routines in order to overcome fatigue and avoid burnout.
Ways To Overcome Fatigue For Spousal Caregivers
If you feel helpless to change things for the better or that you’re trapped in a role you didn’t ask for, it means you have started to feel powerless and this can be the number one cause of depression, fatigue and burnout. While there are many things you can’t control in life, feeling powerless isn’t one of them, so making the effort to get out of that sensation depends entirely on you and can be the difference between falling into burnout and letting it slide right past you.
Put Yourself Back In Charge Of Your Wellness
The first thing to do when faced with the unfairness of your loved one’s illness or the burdens of caregiving is to practice acceptance. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and looking for someone to blame as this will lead to nothing but a greater sense of hopelessness. Embrace your caregiving choice by taking into account and focusing on the positive aspects of why you have taken that role. Meaningful and deep motivations, such as your values and the love you have for your spouse, can be very useful to sustain you through the difficult times.
Don’t let caregiving to take control of your life and stay focused on the things outside of it that bring you joy, such as your career, other family members, a hobby that you love or anything else that provides meaning and purpose.
Rather than stressing out over the things that are out of your control, put the focus back on the things that are and keep in mind the ways in which caregiving has provided positivity for your life as well, by making you stronger or bringing you closer to the person you’re caring for. Don’t forget to celebrate even the smallest of victories, as these can be highly rewarding. You don’t have to cure your loved one’s illness or condition but just being there for them, making them feel safer and loved can make a great difference in the way they continue to live their lives.
Get The Appreciation And Support You Need
Caregivers who feel appreciated in their role experience greater physical and emotional health, as caregiving actually makes them feel happier, healthier and a sense of purpose despite of its demands. So, even if your spouse isn’t able to show appreciation for your time and efforts, there are still ways in which you can reach out for it.
Begin by imagining what your spouse would respond to your efforts if they were healthy and remember how appreciative they would be. Remind yourself how much you’re actually helping – how about making a list? Something concrete showing all of the ways in which your role is necessary can be an uplifting resource to come back to every time you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Taking on all of the responsibilities of caregiving is a sure way to feeling burnt out. Remember, you are not alone and it is okay to ask for help and support, either from a family member or friend you trust, or by hiring someone to provide assistance at least a few days or hours a week. When you’re feeling unappreciated, turning to friends and family or joining a caregiver support group can be a great place to find a listening and supportive ear.
Look into respite care possibilities, such as enlisting friends and family who can help running errands, bringing a meal or watching over your spouse so that you can take some time for yourself and be willing to delegate by dividing your tasks with either a relative or paid help, letting them take control of other responsibilities, such as finances and bills, groceries and errands, etc.
Don’t forget that trying to take control of every aspect can also take you further into burnout, as people will be less likely to help if you insist on doing things your way or you micromanage too much.
Give Yourself A Break And Take Care Of Your Own Health
Regardless of how busy you are, taking proper care of yourself is a must if you want to be a caregiver for someone else, so keep this in mind and pay attention to your health, state of mind and social relationships by taking time off to yourself every day, whether it’s to take a walk around the park, engage in a favorite hobby, squeeze in a 30 minute work-out, have a coffee with friends or watch a funny movie. Whatever it is that you choose to do, taking some time off to yourself to rest and enjoy your free time will leave you feeling renewed and much more motivated to continue providing care to your spouse.
Eating and sleeping well, practicing a relaxation technique like meditating or deep breathing, maintaining a regular exercise routine and paying attention to your own personal health by keeping your own medical check-ups in line will assure that your body and mind is ready to take care of the health and wellbeing of someone else, avoiding burnout and fatigue all together.