Helping others is great; but it can also be hard. How to take care of yourself & avoid burnout

Helping others is great; but it can also be hard. How to take care of yourself & avoid burnout

Happiness is very much about what we do for others, not just for ourselves.

Happiness is self-care but also, care for others.

Sometimes caring for others can be hard, which can affect our own health and happiness.

If you’re struggling in this area and feeling burned out then keep reading…

via TED Ideas by Abhimanu Das

Many people are caregivers for their sick parents, partners, friends or others, with an unfortunate consequence: They end up suffering. TED speakers share steps that caregivers can take to help maintain their own well-being.

Today, people in every country are living longer than ever. Globally, there are an estimated 962 million individuals aged 60 or over, and this age group is growing faster than all others, according to the United Nations. And while many of them are healthy and able-bodied, disease and disability inevitably increase with age. As the aging of the world’s population accelerates, politicians, policy makers and physicians are scrambling to anticipate and address its impact on society and its institutions.

But one important group is being overlooked — the increasing number of people taking care of family members who are ill or disabled. Which leads to the question: Who is caring for the caregivers?

“No one can be a pillar of strength 24/7,” says Françoise Mathieu, a psychotherapist and specialist in an area known as “compassion fatigue.”Compassion fatigue refers to the phenomenon of perpetual caregivers — whether familial or professional — becoming physically and emotionally depleted by the process of ministering to others. “One study found that family members caring for a loved one with dementia reported very high rates of depression,” says Mathieu. Canadian artist Tony Luciani, who spent years caring for his mother as she declined into dementia, describes feeling a sense of almost personal dissolution. The experience, he says, “threw my sense of being into random directions without reason or purpose.”

At its most extreme, being a caregiver can lead to mood swings, exhaustion, irritability and cynicism, as well as feelings of anxiety, emptiness and overwhelm. That’s according to Hui-wen Sato, a pediatric intensive care unit nurse at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Even professional caregivers like her — people who’ve been trained to work with the sick and dying — can succumb. “We had one patient with a very tragic background who had a code blue during my shift, and it was mentally, physically and emotionally taxing,” she recalls. “Then I got home and had two little girls to care for.” The next morning, she says, “it was extremely difficult to function like a ‘normal’ mother on a ‘normal’ day when I was still feeling so burdened about this patient.”

Another long-term effect of compassion fatigue can be a diminished ability to feel empathy for the people you’re caring for. Some researchers have described it as a “secondary traumatic stress disorder,” which comes from prolonged exposure to the suffering of others. While it’s an understandable defense mechanism, it can leave many caregivers feeling guilty and frustrated. They may increase their use of alcohol or drugs, gain or lose large amounts of weight, or take an overall nosedive in wellness. In fact, 17 percent of caregivers report their physical health has gotten worse as a direct result of caregiving.

The longer that someone provides care — whether it’s for a partner, parent, sibling or some other loved one — the more likely they are to experience negative effects. Due to busyness and shame, many struggle in silence, which compounds the problem. “All caregivers, both professional and not, need to know their limits, so they can ask for and get help,” says Sato. Below, advice on how to do just that — and maintain your own well-being — even when someone you love is ailing.

1. Assemble your own team.

Many caregivers are experts at assembling a great team of professionals for their loved ones. They go to lengths to find the best surgeon, oncologist, general practitioner, physical therapist, etc. But they tend to pay a lot less attention to assembling their own crew.

Caregivers: Make a list of dependable relatives, friends, colleagues or other people whom you can call on to help you talk through challenging decisions or experiences, lend a hand with day-to-day tasks, or simply listen as you vent. Luciani recruited people in his community to assist with his mother, who would occasionally get lost when she went on walks. “I solved that by having neighborhood spotters, people who live in town I could call. Some would routinely text me, just to inform me of my mom’s whereabouts,” he says. “I appreciated it greatly. I could breathe again.”

For Sato, having coffee with a sympathetic friend was a life-saver. After the death of one patient, she recalls, “my friend sat with me and let me work through a lot of my difficult emotions. The safe place she gave me to be open and vulnerable was enough to revitalize me so that I could care for my own family and then go back to work for my next shift without feeling weighed down.”

Just as important, when people offer assistance, know that it’s OK to answer “Yes.” You’re not any less of a good caregiver if you do. The next time someone asks, “Is there anything I can help out with?” — and you know they really mean it — take a moment to think about your life and what’s going on. Then, tell them, “Yes, I could use a hand with … ”

Besides turning to family and friends, you might want to look into one of the many support groups that exist for caregivers. Both the Family Caregiver Allianceand AARP provide directories of online and in-person options around the US…

…keep reading the full & original article HERE