Caregiver Burnout and Self-Care
Suzanne Shaft

The Importance of Self-Care – The Holiday Edition

Ho, ho, oh….no.  You are the primary caregiver for someone with disabilities and the holidays are here.  Not only are you in charge of taking care of health issues, behavioral challenges, school problems, doctor and therapy appointments, but now you are the one who is in charge of making the holidays happen.  There are gifts to be bought and wrapped, decorating to be done, events to be attended, treats to be baked, cards to be sent…and you are probably feeling the pressure to make it all “perfect.”  I get it.  We have all been there.  But if you keep up this crazy pace without taking some much-needed time for self-care to destress, you will experience caregiver burnout.


Caregiver Burnout is REAL

I had always heard about burnout but never figured it was a real, honest-to-goodness health problem.  Spoiler alert:  it is.  According to Psychology Today, burnout is a state of chronic stress that can lead to exhaustion, detachment, and feelings of inadequacy.  You might think (as I did) that everyone feels that way at some point.  However, what matters is what – if anything – you do about these symptoms.  It turns out that if you ignore these warning signs, you will eventually not be able to function effectively, either personally or professionally.  That is a big deal.  This article will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about burnout but were afraid to ask.


How to Deal With Burnout

The good news is that even small lifestyle changes can help you avoid burnout.  If you’re anything like me, you laugh every time a friend, family member, or doctor tells you that you need to reduce your stress.  But, I implore you to learn from my mistakes!  It’s the holiday season…is there a better time to give yourself this gift?


Recovering from Burnout – Holiday Style!

Think of things that you find relaxing.  These things can be very simple or more elaborate.  They can range from sitting with a cup of hot cocoa or coffee in the morning before everyone gets up to going to get a massage.  If you have access to someone who can step in and take care of your disabled children – great!  Maybe have a night out with your friends.  If you don’t have someone who can help, look for simpler, easier things you can do while the kids are asleep.  Maybe you can FaceTime your friends.  You could do something you love, like working on a hobby, reading for fun, or even exercising.  Remember, if you have disabilities, it is also critical to carve out self-care time.  It can prevent meltdowns and sensory overload.


Self-Care Means Accepting That Nothing is Perfect

Some things may just not get done.  Maybe cookies and other treats won’t get baked.  Holiday cards may not happen in some years.  That’s okay.  All you can do is the best you can do.  No one – not even you – can ask more of yourself.  Pick a few, most important, non-negotiable things you feel must be done during the holiday season, and sprinkle in some self-care around those things.  Here’s an idea – how about making self-care a New Year’s resolution?  After practicing how to put self-care time in your schedule during the holiday season, it may become a wonderful habit you never want to break.


Are you having a hard time figuring out how to add self-care time into your busy schedule?  What things have you done to successfully add self-care into your routine to avoid caregiver burnout?  Tell me about it.  I’d love to hear some of your ideas.  I wish you a wonderful holiday season, filled with a lot of opportunities for taking care of yourself!


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