an animation of a candle being burned at both ends, as a metaphor for overextending oneself as a caregiver

Caregiver Fatigue and What Helps

A caregiver is defined by their role of helping take care of someone with a short-term or long-term condition. But the caregiver can often have health conditions themselves and must deal with how best to take care of themselves as well as someone else.

I personally was a caregiver to my elderly parents while I had hepatitis C. Knowing how to be proactive with your own health care is key to avoid caregiver fatigue and burnout.

Symptoms of caregiver fatigue

The Cleveland Clinic states, “Caregivers often are so busy caring for others that they tend to neglect their own emotional, physical, and spiritual health. The demands on a caregiver’s body, mind, and emotions can easily seem overwhelming, leading to fatigue, hopelessness, and ultimately burnout.”1

Symptoms of caregiver burnout can include, fatigue; feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or like there is not enough of you to go around; feeling emotionally empty; insomnia or oversleeping, trouble concentrating; crying; changes in appetite; weight gain or loss; irritability; anger; depression; headaches; and muscle tension.1

How to avoid caregiver burnout

There are a variety of helpful things someone can do to avoid burnout. First and foremost, know this: Taking care of yourself is not selfish. Do not feel guilty for taking a break, or time for self-care.

Just like if you were on an airplane in distress, you must put on your oxygen mask first before helping someone else. You cannot effectively help someone else unless you help yourself first.

Some tips I recommend include:

  • Asking someone who is qualified to assist or give you a break, or day off
  • Scheduling regular breaks or time off
  • Making time to eat nutritiously-balanced meals and healthy snacks
  • Making time to exercise, like walking, riding a bike, or doing another activity you enjoy. Even 10-15 minutes helps
  • Making sure to get at least 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night
  • Making sure to attend to your own health by taking your medications, attending doctor appointments or therapy, or whatever you need
  • Making time with others. Enjoy going out to eat, coffee, or visiting with a friend
  • Connecting with a support group of others who share similar experiences
  • Seeking spiritual encouragement through prayer, reading the Bible or other scripture, or talking to a care professional
  • Journaling

Remember, the things you cannot control, let them go. Do not allow demands or stress to overwhelm you. You can only do so much for another person. Do your best to help others with love and kindness, but maintain healthy boundaries for yourself. Your health and wellbeing matter!

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