Looking after a child or loved one with autism, sensory processing disorder, or another health condition can be difficult. When you’re the primary caregiver for someone else, there’s a lot of stress put on your shoulders — and if you aren’t careful, that stress can build up and lead to caregiver fatigue.
Caregiver fatigue can lead to significant health problems — not to mention it can prevent you from caring for your loved one. After all, how can you expect to take care of someone else when you’re completely worn down?
Fortunately, there are several ways to fight back against caregiver fatigue. Here are some tips for making sure you look out for yourself as you care for your loved one.
What Is Caregiver Fatigue?
Also known as caregiver burnout, caregiver fatigue often sets in when people spend a great deal of their time looking after another person. It can look a lot like depression, as people who experience it sometimes lose interest in the everyday activities of life.
Because attending to another person for long periods of time can be so demanding, caregivers sometimes have little time left to look after their own mental, emotional and physical needs.
New parents can experience caregiver fatigue, as can people who care for an ailing family member. Parents and caregivers of children and adults with special needs can also suffer from caregiver fatigue. It’s also common for nurses, therapists and others in caring professions to experience caregiver burnout.
5 Ways to Fight Caregiver Burnout
The symptoms of caregiver fatigue include irritability, changes in appetite, insomnia and withdrawal from family and friends. If you find yourself slipping into these types of feelings or behaviors, experts say it’s important to take steps to safeguard your mental and physical health.
Self-care means exactly what it sounds like. When you spend most of your time looking after another person, it can be easy to neglect your own needs. Self-care means setting aside time to do something you enjoy. This can be something as simple as taking a long walk on a scenic bike path, or it can involve a more structured pampering routine like a spa day or grabbing a mani-pedi session with a friend.
Therapists and clinicians say they often practice self-care by exercising regularly and scheduling activities ahead of time. By sticking to a schedule, they’re less likely to let the demands of caregiving infringe on their self-care.
Make Time for Hobbies
Whether it’s a new hobby or one you’ve been doing for years, spending time on something you love can give you a fresh perspective. Hobbies have been shown to reduce stress and improve mental health, which makes them a perfect way to carve out some time for you alone.
Form New Friendships
Many caregivers feel isolated. When you spend your days (and nights) looking after someone else, it can seem like you’re the only person in the world having this experience. You might even feel like the world is passing you by. As Angela Conrad, the mother of a child with autism, writes at Autism Awareness, “It’s hard not to get lonely when the normalcy of the world seems to flow around you.”
Experts say one way to combat this feeling is to connect with others having similar experiences. If you can’t find a support group in your town or neighborhood, you can probably find one online. Autism Speaks has a long list of support groups for various regions, as well as links to online communities.
Get Extra Help
Just because you care for another person’s needs doesn’t mean the demands of everyday life suddenly stop. There are still dishes that need washing, grass that needs cut and cars that need oil changes. When your laundry is piling up, you don’t have time to relax on the sofa with a bowl of popcorn and your favorite TV show.
However, that relaxation time is probably more important than the piles of dirty clothes on your laundry room floor. If you can’t find extra time in the day, perhaps you can find some extra help.
Some caregivers have the resources to hire a helping hand. For example, maybe a neighborhood teen will mow your grass for a few bucks. A high school student looking to save for college might be happy to take your car for a tune-up. If your house could use some sprucing up, a weekly maid service might do wonders for your state of mind.
If your budget is tight, ask around for volunteers. If you know a stay-at-home parent, they might be happy to sit with your loved one for a few hours while you do some grocery shopping or read a book. A retired neighbor who loves gardening might offer to pull weeds in your flower beds or help with the overgrown shrubs in your yard.
Get More (and Better) Sleep
Insomnia and poor quality sleep are common signs of caregiver fatigue. In some cases, caregivers develop sleep disorders because the person they care for has trouble sleeping. In other cases, worry and stress can keep caregivers up at night.
Fortunately, a weighted blanket may help. Made with about 10 percent of the user’s body weight, weighted blankets work by delivering a form of therapy called deep pressure touch stimulation. This gentle, consistent pressure is like a deep massage, which research shows can ease anxiety, reduce insomnia and promote healthier, more restorative sleep.
SensaCalm Weighted Blankets
If you have questions about weighted blankets or how to order, give us a call at 855-736-7222. You can also use our contact form and one of our helpful team members will be in touch.
Disclaimer: The content on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider before undertaking any type of therapy or treatment.