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Let’s talk about caregiver burnout
As a parent of a child with type 1 diabetes, the burnout is real, and it can happen fairly quickly.
A diabetes diagnosis can be very overwhelming. Especially for us parents, when our children are so small, the emotional and mental exhaustion for being the primary caregiver to that child can be truly exhausting.
As caregivers, and sole providers of our little warriors, we need to find the time to have self-care. Our life is a constant hustle and bustle, and it’s just never-ending.
Taking time for self-care is not being selfish. If we do not take good care of ourselves, then we are not going to be able to take care of our children physically and mentally.
Not taking the time to care for our bodies and spirit, causes health issues, stress, anxiety, and depression, and that is when we will suffer the “caregiver burnout.”
Disclaimer: Although I have experience as a therapist, you should always consult with your doctor about any symptoms that you may be experiencing.
Warning Signs for Caregiver Burnout
With the day-to-day activities of managing our child’s chronic illness, at times we do not notice the symptoms or even our actions towards others. We are just so consumed with stress, tension, and sadness, that we can miss these warning signs.
Here are some warning signs and symptoms that you are possibly suffering from caregiver burnout:
- Not enjoying life
- Often feeling angry, worried, hopeless or helpless
- Get upset over little things
- Always tired
- Have trouble paying attention and concentrating
- Get sick more often than usual
- Eat too much or too little
- Have trouble sleeping
- Isolating from family and friends
- Feel trapped and want to escape
We are constantly thinking #allthethings and we need to remind ourselves to slow down. Burnout is a state of mind. I KNOW its hard, but we need to make our best effort, for our own good, and for our children.
What Causes Caregiver Burnout
As parents of children with type 1 diabetes, we are doing a lot of day-to-day activities, running errands, going to and from work and taking care of our loved little ones and maybe other older adults family members non-stop.
Being parents to these little warriors is very challenging and draining. We get so used to the stress and tension, that it just becomes the norm for us.
Here are some of the causes that can cause a caregiver burnout:
- Lack of Control – Diabetes in and of itself is something that can be very uncontrolled, especially if you are going through the honeymoon phase. Your child’s diabetes may be controlled today, but not so much tomorrow. As a caregiver of a diabetic child, we need to be constantly assessing and evaluating how their sugars are going to be going each day, even to each minute. It is a LOT to take in.
- Little Sleep – We are constantly worrying and getting up at night to see how our child’s sugar are trending, just to see if its going up or down. We are constantly losing sleep with the preoccupation that if they go to an extreme low and we do not hear the alarm (if you use the CGM), something will happen. Then the guilt comes in because we feel that we failed. We are always on edge, fearing the worst.
How Long Does Caregiver Burnout Last
Every person is different. Some people manage to bounce back better than others. The most important thing here is to find and get help as soon as possible.
The longer you delay getting help, the worse your physical, emotional and mental state can be.
As soon as you recognize the symptoms of a caregiver burnout. Act fast! Do not wait! Talk to your Primary Care Provider for a referral to a mental health provider.
How to Deal with Caregiver Burnout
As a mother, I love my children dearly. I just want what’s best for them. Therefore, at times, I like to take some quiet time for myself and that way I can give my kids the best of me.
Here are a couple of things that you can do in order to deal with caregiver burnout:
- Try to get a full night’s sleep. Ask someone you trust completely, to take care of your child while you sleep. If your child goes to school, try to rest during the time they are in school.
Listen to uplifting music, or rock (whatever rocks your boat)
Color a coloring book
Exercise or go for a 30 min walk
Make a cozy spot in your home
- Go to the movies by yourself, spouse, family, or friends
Start a journal. Write down all the things you are thankful for. Laminate your favorites ones, and place them on the fridge so you can remember and see them every day. Those can be your mantra.
Take up a hobby you once enjoyed, or choose a new one
Spend time with your spouse, children, family, and friends
Go out for dinner with your spouse or friend
Take on meditation and/or yoga
Live one day at a time. You cannot change the past and the future is unpredictable.
- Sit on the couch with your feet up and just close your eyes.
- Get a manicure and pedicure. Treat yourself!
- Get a massage.
Go to the mall and just be by yourself. You do not need to buy things, just do window shopping.
Have a mantra for yourself that is positive.
Write down a goal that you want to accomplish that week.
- Go to a place that you have always wanted to visit.
- Go to your favorite coffee shop with a book.
Go to the beach, if you are near one.
- Try to change your attitude to a positive one. It’s all about mindset.
How to Prevent Caregiver Burnout
Although nothing is life is 100%, we can try to prevent getting constantly burned out as a result of taking care of the person you are caring for, our little ones.
Here are some steps you can take to help prevent caregiver burnout:
- Find someone you trust, such as a friend, family member, or neighbor, to talk to about your feelings and frustrations.
- Find a local community group where there are other parents going through your same journey. No one will understand you better than another T1D Parent.
- If you cannot be physically in a place to meet other parents with children with type 1 diabetes, head on over to Facebook Groups, and have a community there. Some of these
- Accept help from people that you trust to take care of your child with diabetes.
- Schedule some time for yourself, even if it’s just an hour. Remember, taking care of yourself is a necessity if you’re going to be an effective parent to a diabetic child.
- Talk to a mental health provider for severe emotions like depression, PTSD and anxiety due to taking care of your child with diabetes.
- Recognize your strengths and limitations when managing your emotions as a parent to a child with diabetes.
- Learn as much as you can about your child’s Diabetes. The more you understand it, the more confident you will feel in managing it.
- Create new coping skills to deal with your stress, like watching a funny movie, taking a stroll in a park, having a day spa, doing something to take your mind off your everyday activities as a parent to a diabetic child. This can help you decompress.
- Stay healthy with a healthy diet, exercise, and a good night’s sleep.
Accept your feelings about your current situation. Being a parent to a child with diabetes can provoke negative feelings, such as frustration, sadness, tension, stress, or anger. This is normal, it does not mean you are a bad parent.
If someone offers to help, accept it.
Where to Turn for Help with Caregiver Burnout
If you are already suffering from stress and depression, seek mental health help. Stress and depression are treatable disorders.
If you want to help in preventing burnout as a parent to a child with diabetes, consider turning to the following resources for help:
Your local church
Facebook Groups with other parents who have children with type 1 diabetes
Remember there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. We are all going through this journey. Please do not go through it alone.
We are here to help each other and assist one another. No one can understand you better than another parent who also has a child with type 1 diabetes.
Do not be shy to reach out to others in your community. It will be of great help and great relationships can turn out from this.