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Caregiver burnout is very real and very dangerous. It is imperative that caregivers are able to take care of themselves. The YES! team has identified the stages of burnout and some ways to cope. Additional resources are below.

The five stages of burnout:

  1. Life is Good – Your excitement is high; you are crushing it and pressures are short-term. The pressure at this level pushes you to be proactive.
  2. Onset of Stress – Caregiving seems to be taking up more and more of your day. Communication becomes mostly fact centered and you have less time for social communication. You find yourself irritable more often but vow to reduce it.
  3. Chronic Stress – Caregiving feels consistently intense; the pressure to be perfect and the anxiety that you aren’t is constant; your hobbies are gone but escapist activities are increased (binge-watching TV, drinking, etc). You are in denial of the stress in your life because it feels “normal” now.
  4. Pressure Cooker – Physical changes occur (stomach issues, headaches); you become obsessed over the difficulties you face; social isolation becomes your norm and it impacts your relationships; there seems to be no silver lining to keep you going. You feel no sense of appreciation for all that you do.
  5. Persistent Burnout – This stage is Groundhog Day, you keep moving but nothing gets easier; the physical and mental challenges are overwhelming; depression and hopelessness have set in. At this point medical and/or therapeutic intervention is necessary.


Ways to Cope

  1. Time off – Schedule it! Self-care is not selfish- get a massage, see a movie, do something for yourself. Ask a family member to take over for a short period on a regular basis.
  2. Meditation & Breathwork – check out 4-7-8 Breathing technique, sounds trite but it is helpful, and it connects you to the present moment which lessens anxiety about the past and future.
  3. Sleep – Our society glamorizes minimal sleep as impressive. This is wrong, sleep is critical to mental and physical health. People who sleep less than 8hrs per night have a 30% increase in anxiety. Check out the Brain FM app. Try a sleep mask – Mindfold works well because it blocks light but allows you to blink. If your loved one is up through the night, schedule someone to sleep over periodically. Or to come mid-day so you can nap.
  4. Move More – Sweating releases endorphins. Daily movement does not mean you have to exercise intensely…walk, stand, dance, yoga all work too. Mix it up so you don’t get bored.
  5. Cry – Letting your defenses down helps relieve stress. Tears contain stress hormones released from your body. Give yourself permission to lose it from time to time.