Therapy for caregivers who consistently show empathy to those with emotional pain can decrease burnout and compassion fatigue. If you burn out you will not be able to be as effective in helping those you work with, and so taking care of yourself is the first step to being able to give more of yourself to others. Caregivers who don’t eat well, get enough sleep or exercise, and rest will get sick more often are the first to show signs of burnout.
Therapy for caregivers can provide support, psychoeducation, and a non-judgemental voice to your inner self-talk about your work. We will watch for early signs of burnout such as withdrawing from social relations, decreased interest in leisure time activities, hopeless, irritability, changes in diet and sleep patterns, and reduced immune system resulting in more sick days off work. We will increase your support network by enhancing the contacts you have, branching out to make new friends, and sharing with your therapist.
We will use Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to set realistic goals for our work performance and our ability to help. Caregivers may have beliefs that prevent them from proper self-care, they may feel selfish if they put their needs first and find it scary to think about themselves as having needs. Caregivers may also be unable to ask for help and feel they need to work harder to be of any personal worth. They may overestimate their own importance in the client’s care, and feel that if they don’t do everything themselves it will just not get done right! Negative self-talk can drain a caregiver leaving them depleted and ineffective because our beliefs influence our feelings and actions. Our negative beliefs also get in the way of our self-care.
Stressors can be managed if early warnings signs are heeded. Waiting until you’re overwhelmed with work will increase the treatment time needed to become well again. Being proactive in areas we can change is as important as letting go of those we have no control over. Setting positive goals such as taking a break, eating healthier, getting to bed earlier, or making a new friend may help us return to our optimistic selves because we can feel a sense of mastery and accomplishment.
Problem solving is easier with another professional who is not involved in your work. Brainstorming possible solutions and then looking at the short and long term effects of each can help restore clarity. Asking others for possible solutions may be a first step in asking for help in other areas of your life, which will decrease the stress of having to have all of the answers. Communicating constructively can decrease negativity and criticism, and help us to feel less defensive at work. Exercise can help us release tension and decrease stress while helping us sleep.
We will help you to prioritize a few moments of time for yourself for some much needed rest. You may choose to seek additional support from a clergy member or your church community, or take part in community events to take your mind of an exhausting day and put it into perspective. We can examine perfectionist thinking and our tendency to want to be a superhero and save the day. Let’s put down our cape and learn we all have limits and if we push ourselves beyond them something will need to give, which can be your own mental and physical health. Eating and sleeping with our health in mind can help us to have more positive attitudes at work and at home. Negative feelings such as anger and tension are normal and it doesn’t mean we are ineffective as long as we can come to therapy and resolve them before we behave unethically. We all work to take care of our loved ones and when we deplete ourselves we may find ourselves short tempered and irrational at home, and therapy can help us gain some perspective and prioritize those who will mean the most in the decades to come. Therapy can help us to laugh at our own faults, deal with everyday stressors, and retain our perspective of why we began helping in the first place.
Let’s begin to restore your balance together!