Want to Prevent Caregiver Burnout? Get Mindful.
Are you now, or have you ever been a caregiver?
If so, get very quiet, close your eyes and listen very closely, hear it? The rising crescendo of adulation and wild raucous applause coming from the ethers? That is just for you. Take it in. You rock.
Being a caregiver is challenging and is often a role that is discounted and marginalized. Caregivers fill a world of need, and in doing so, are at risk of easily falling into the caregiver burnout abyss. If you are human, and you are tending to a family member or friend, chances are that you will be challenged by feelings of stress, fear and fatigue.
If at any point you have thought or said some version of, “I don’t have time to relax….” due to your obligations as a caregiver, read on. Time is not your enemy, your to-do list is. Put it down and walk away…really, walk away; just for a few minutes. No need to panic, it is not going anywhere.
The big open secret is that the key to reducing caregiver burnout and compassion fatigue lies in what can be construed to some as the seemingly counter intuitive wisdom of mindfulness. Being mindful and engaging in radical self-care is proving to be one of the most effective ways to take care of your loved one while fortifying yourself. Mindfulness is a necessary core competency that we all need to develop. Taking space for yourself in the long run will keep you grounded and peaceful while allowing you to be of service.
Whether or not you are experiencing any symptoms related to caregiver burnout, small mindful changes over a period as little as a week can begin to yield positive results. Here a five easy tips. Keep track of how you feel when you take the time to practice. After a week ask yourself: How you are feeling? Are you relating to your circumstance any differently? Do you have a little more ease around your caregiving?
Research shows that spending just a few minutes sitting with your breath will relax you. This is a great tip when you are feeling rushed. Take five minutes, sit down, breathe deeply, feel your lungs filling with air, let it go easily, and repeat. Just place your attention on how it feels to inhale fully and release the breath fully. A few minutes of breathing and you will have more oxygen running through your body and causing you to relax. Bonus points for taking yourself outside in nature. Touch the ground. Befriend your body.
Gratitude, Sitting, Journaling
Sit outside, preferably in nature. Get some sun on your face, be with your breath, watch the sky, birds, or squirrels do their thing. Think of one, two, or three things for which you are truly grateful . Smile. If you want to go for the gold, keep a gratitude journal. It is a very powerful way to reinforce the positive aspects of your day and over time and provides an encouraging read when you are faced with a particularly challenging situation.
Connect to Others
Don’t do this alone. Call a friend. Ask them if you can call to check-in occasionally. They don’t have to fix or do anything. You just need them to be there for you to listen. This check-in could take as little as five to ten minutes. Verbalizing what is hard and difficult often diffuses the issue at hand or at very least creates some perspective. Additionally, consider joining a support group comprised of other caregivers who are facing the same issues. Or, sign-up for a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class in your community.
Nurture and Rest
Give yourself a break. What do you love to do for yourself that is healthy, absorbing and renewing? (No, we are not including diving into that ice cream in the freezer.) Do you need to exercise? Walk? Listen to some music? Take a bubble bath? Have a relaxing lunch with your favorite goofball friend? Read your latest favorite mystery novel? Take a nap? Make a list of things that you can resort to when you have some time and when you engage in any of these activities enjoy it!
Do one thing at a time. Multitasking is not a thing. It is a misguided tactic that gets nothing done completely and will cause unnecessary suffering. When you are with the one you are caring for be with them fully. Do the task at hand as mindfully as possible. Bring the mindfulness techniques that you are cultivating and practicing into your caregiving.
If you’re interested in learning more mindfulness techniques, check out our recent article around how to care for yourself while caring for aging parents.