Caring for someone is admirable, and the sacrifices that caregivers make should be appreciated. It is possible, however, to care too much.
Although it’s never a bad thing to have a big heart, to act on compassionate feelings without boundaries is unhealthy. It leads to fatigue, exhaustion and burnout—and then both the person being cared for and the caregiver need help. If you’re a caregiver, make sure you aren’t on this path. Think about these seven warning signs, and carefully consider whether you’re overdoing it.
1. You Talk in Extremes
If you often talk in extremes, then your approach to caregiving may be extreme, too. Do you frequently find yourself saying things like “I never have a chance to…” or “I’m always…”? If so, you may benefit from some added flexibility in your life. Building more margins into your schedule will give you some much-needed breathing room.
2. You’re Isolated from Others
Caring for an individual can be an isolating experience, as it requires a lot of time. You shouldn’t be completely isolated from everyone except the person you care for. Think about the last time you spent time with friends, saw other family members or talked with colleagues. If it’s been a while, it may be time to pursue relationships beyond your care-giving role.
3. You’re Not Taking Care of Yourself
Caregivers need to also take care of themselves. Are you still attending to your own needs, or have you allowed your health to decline as you’ve taken on more and more caregiving responsibilities? Don’t just think about whether you shower and brush your teeth, also consider whether your weight or the way you dress has changed.
4. Adequate Sleep is Just a Dream
Sleep is a vitally important aspect of self-care. If you don’t have enough time to sleep, you’re likely spreading yourself too thin. If you can’t sleep decently at night, other stressors may be keeping your body awake. Either one is a possible sign that you’re trying to do more than you’re able to.
5. You Don’t Smile Anymore
Caregiving can change your general disposition and not necessarily for the better. Do you still smile and laugh at times, or are you constantly feeling tired, unengaged or depressed? If others have commented on a change in mood, you might be nearing a tipping point.
6. Caregiving is Your Constant Topic of Conversation
People often talk about what consumes their time and their thoughts. So, what do you talk about? If you’re caring for an elderly parent, it’s only natural to talk about them at least some of the time. Still, your caregiving responsibilities shouldn’t be the only thing you have to talk about. If you have other passions and hobbies, you’ll likely want to mention those to other people.
7. All of Your Time is Spent Caregiving
If your conversations revolve solely around caregiving, you might already know the answer to this question. Nevertheless, don’t neglect all that you do, or used to do, outside of caregiving. It’s important to have some outlet that’s not tied to caring for a person or your job. Caregivers don’t typically have a lot of time to spare, but adding opportunities to have fun into your schedule will help sustain you while you’re taking care of a loved one.
It’s not unusual for caregivers to display some of these warning signs. After all, people become caregivers because they care. If some of these signs resonate with you, take steps to avoid burning out. Seek help and set some boundaries so you can also take care of yourself.