Caregiving and Burnout

by Gail Mitchell

This is an incredibly important topic that all caregivers must be aware of. Burnout can be dangerous to you and your loved one who you care for. Burnout can be very damaging and it is quite common amongst caregivers. Burnout can result from the combination of effects from one's emotional feelings of guilt, lack of recognition, helplessness, family discord and isolation and much more.

Mixed with the demands upon your own strength, your resources, time and energy its is easy to understand why so many caregivers experience this sense of utter depletion. Burnout affects your health, motivation, attitude and mood. It can flow over into your personal life as well, especially if you are not conscious as it happens to you.

Causes Of Burnout

  • The need to work hard
  • Perfectionism and high expectation of yourself and others
  • Commitment, dedication
  • Not being able to delegate responsibility to others
  • The need to prove yourself
  • Pushing yourself past your limitations
  • The need for approval from others
  • Not reaching out for support and help.
  • Inability to say no
  • Not being able to receive
  • Self-sacrifice
  • Not having a social life, not living your own life fully

Symptoms Of Burnout

  • Lack of motivation
  • Complaining about the caregiving role
  • Lack of efficiency
  • Depression, anxiety and emotional exhaustion
  • Insomnia
  • Sense of being overwhelmed or burdened
  • Headaches
  • Loss of self-confidence, self-esteem
  • Backaches
  • Inability to concentrate and slowed thought
  • Lethargy
  • Feelings of emptiness and sadness
  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Anger
  • Frustration and easily aroused irritation
  • Pessimism
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Resentment
  • Skin conditions

Prevention Against Burnout

Make a conscious decision to take care of your own personal needs and your health first while you are caring for another person. The most important phrase to remember at this time is After me, you come first. If you are not strong from within, healthy and balanced physically emotionally, mentally and spiritually then how can you be there fully present to care for another?

Make a conscious decision at the onset of the caregiving process to involve the one you caregive in making choices, decisions, etc., encouraging them to take active participation in the healing, treatment or process until their transition from this plane.

I cannot express the importance of supporting the one you care for to take an active part in maintaining the quality of their life even if they are terminal. Provided they are of sound mind and have their faculties, a caregiver should support their loved one to fully participate in all the decisions regarding the process they are experiencing with empowerment, strength, responsibility and much more.......Encouraging the cared one to remain independent and in charge of the life is so very important in times like this. Wherever possible, the caregiver should try to work with the requests of their loved one in all situations, acting as a support to follow through on their decisions.

Caregivers must seek out techniques, which relax themselves during their undertaking as caregiver. This means eating well, getting fresh air, learning deep breathing techniques, perhaps yoga or tai chi, exercising, walking, napping and a variety of other ways. The most important issue is to reach some deep inner peace from within

When caring for someone who is terminal and undergoing a slow deterioration process that we watch daily as caregivers, the process can be devastating. It is important to look at areas in our own personal lives where we are perhaps dying a little every day because we are not living our own lives to the fullest. We put off things until tomorrow. Now is the only moment we have. As caregivers we begin to see how short and truly precious life is. Make sure you maintain your own personal life while caring for another. You must make time for yourselves. Bring in other family members, friends or volunteers from organizations to assist you when needed.

Find support groups on and offline for your loved one and yourself. Sharing with others in similar processes helps you to keep a proper perspective on the process. Reach out and get the support you need. No one can undergo this alone. We all need support!

Never diminish your accomplishments - large or small. When you give with clear intent and focus from your heart, wonderful healings manifest. Be in gratitude for the mini miracles taking place. They are all a part of a bigger picture that we may not be able to comprehend at the time.

See if you can write down all the mixed feelings you go through: the highs, the lows, the old patterns, the feelings of inadequacy, the frustrations, etc. Writing, allows you to clear yourself to move on without carrying all the clutter or baggage with you. It frees you up to be fully present in the moment.

Learn to be able to laugh at yourself, the situations you are in with your loved one and life. Humor is such an important healing ingredient especially when you are feeling helpless and hopeless.

Be aware of the lessons that you are learning from the process itself, from your loved one that you are caring for and from others who come into your life.

© Gail Mitchell

Gail Mitchell has published several articles and is hoping to publish her manuscript on her caregiving process with her father. Visit her web site at