Burnout

Burnout is the result of constantly giving and giving without replenishing yourself. Your parents need you, your in-laws need you, your spouse pouts if he doesn't get some attention, and your children begin to act out to make you pay attention to them. You find yourself physically as well as emotionally exhausted. If your house caught fire, you would probably just sit there. What about you? When does it get to be your turn?

Caregivers are at risk for depression, and depression is often the root of burnout. Feeling guilty because you can't give each of your responsibilities the amount of time and attention you think you should can make you feel overwhelmed and stressed. This only adds to the situation and leads to depression and burnout.

Other symptoms of burnout include anger, depression, anxiety, irritability, feelings of detachment, and numbness. You may neglect your own appearance and health issues. You don't sleep well; you don't eat well. You hate and even resent your responsibilities. You may turn to substances such as alcohol or tobacco. You may have withdrawn from your usual activities. Work and personal relationships are strained.

You have to learn to set limits and stick to them. You have to accept the fact that you don't have superpowers — you can only do so much. Prioritize, decide which things are more important, and direct your best efforts in this direction. Face the fact that you can't do this alone and that you need to find some help. Asking for help is not a weakness; it is, in fact, a strength and necessity. You also have to realize you must put yourself first sometimes and take time to replenish yourself or you will not be able to continue, and then you won't be able to help anybody.

Try to get your parent into an adult day-care setting or arrange for some respite and spend the time for yourself. Make a list of all of the tasks you have to accomplish each day and determine whom you can delegate some of them to. You may need to hire someone to assist you with some of these tasks or chores.

When you take care of yourself, you will have more to give. Don't feel guilty about needing some time and attention for yourself; this is a basic necessity and should not be ignored or postponed. This is an ongoing process — the more you need to give, the more you will need to replenish yourself.

Care giving is a thankless job. Although your parents may indeed tell you constantly how much they love and appreciate all that you do for them, in the end they will die. Despite all of your efforts, you cannot prevent this from happening and it's something that will haunt you throughout the experience. You will have to learn to reap your own satisfaction and reward by knowing you have done your best to make life easier and provide for them. It will not be perfect, and things will not always go as you plan. All you can do is give it your best shot and accept the fact that you cannot be all things to all people at the same time!

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