As my late husband's caregiver, I did my best to do my best. For the first two and a half years, I put every bit of energy I could into helping Gary to heal. Often without regard for the cost to my own well being. The end result? I hit a wall of exhaustion which had a major ripple effect on our marriage.
My if onlys are a big part of why I now coach cancer survivors and caregivers...because if only we'd had access to coaching I believe our path would have had more ease and peace as we traveled that rocky road. If I had been aware of the toll my approach to caregiving was having on my life, I could have put a plan in place to keep from hitting that wall and experiencing a period of disconnection from Gary.
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There are many signs someone is headed toward or experiencing caregiver burnout. Here are three you can use to do a quick self-check.
1. You have no patience for the patient. Being short and testy when the person you are caring for interacts with you is a good sign you're burned out. Things you used to do willingly, grateful for the opportunity you now do begrudginly...and THEN most likely beat yourself up for it out of guilt.
2. The "when is it my turn" whine. Most likely, you only say it in your head because most caregivers carry a significant amount of compassion in their makeup which keeps you from saying this out loud. It is a silent internal message that can torture you...a sense of needing a break, undermined by a feeling of guilt for needing something when the person you're caring for is going through a life threatening illness.
3. Breathing takes effort. The weight on your chest is so heavy that some days, just breathing takes all the energy you have. You can't imagine how you're going to find what you need to keep doing what you're doing.
Relating to one or more of these three quick self-checks is a good indicator you're on the path to burnout or already there. You and your loved one deserve more. If you feel you're walking down this path, I have an invitation for you. I've spent the past four months adapting my one on one i-Thrive! Coaching system to a group coaching platform. On June 7th, I will begin a four week trial of the program.
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I am looking for volunteers to participate for free in four one hour calls. Click here for more information or email me now to reserve your spot. Calls run four consecutive weeks beginning Tuesday, June 7th at 7pm Pacific Standard Time and all are dial in phone sessions. Dial in information will be provided once you've reserved your spot. Calls are one hour with unlimited email support in between. In exchange, participants agree to complete a 15 minute or less survey at the end of the program and, if they feel they benefitted they have the opportunity to give a testimonial.
Feel free to pass this article and information along to any caregiver you know who may need some tools and support to avoid burnout.