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Help! I’m Exhausted!

Help! I’m Exhausted!

Are you feeling burned out and exhausted? Do you love many parts of your life yet long for a little time to yourself? Do you love your family member or friend that is ill but sometimes feel resentful of the changes their disease has imposed on your life?

Feeling overwhelmed as the caregiver of someone with a serious or chronic illness is common! The diagnosis has altered your plans for the future and you may experience a sense of sadness, anger, frustration and loss. Taking care of yourself is the secret to coping!

 When you are overloaded and exhausted, you develop physical, emotional, and spiritual symptoms. If you don’t find ways to lighten your load, you may eventually experience physical and mental burnout. If you are experiencing some of the symptoms below, your stress level is too high. You need to explore ways to lighten your load!

  • difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • recurrent digestive complaints like nausea, diarrhea, and constipation
  • recurrent headaches or muscle aches
  • frequent outburst of anger or crying
  • difficulty making decisions or remembering important details of your life
  • withdrawal from friends and family
  • recurrent illnesses – colds, flu, bronchitis
  • eating too much or too little

So, what can you do?    

  1. Change your lifestyle to include things that build your immune system and help you cope. Eat 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day, keep your intake of sugar and junk food to a minimum, eat a serving of low fat protein with each of your 3 main meals and drink at least 6 glasses of water a day.
  2. Get adequate rest and sleep. Sleep recharges your battery and has a dramatic impact on your body’s immune system as well as how you cope. Most people need at least 8 hours a night. If your sleep is being chronically disturbed, it is essential that you take time to a rest later in the day. This may be challenging but finding a way to squeeze in a small nap will make an amazing difference to your day, your week, and your life. If you’re finding it impossible to get enough rest, perhaps it’s time to consider some respite help.
  3. Find people who will listen patiently and without judgment to your fears, joys, and frustrations. Talking about your experience with others who don’t give advice but simply listen helps relieve your anxiety and allows you to feel loved and supported.
  4. Find solutions to the things that are difficult. The best way to decrease your stress level is to meet your problems head on and search for manageable solutions. It allows you to take back control of your life and feel empowered to make things better.
  5. Be accepting of how you are feeling and how you are coping. Don’t judge your emotions as wrong and struggle against them. Sit quietly and notice how you are feeling. Emotions will bubble to the surface to be experienced so allow yourself permission to feel them. This will help prevent angry outbursts from pent up emotion.
  6. Do something every day that brings you joy! Laughing, singing, reading, exercising or talking to a friend all increase the level of endorphins in your body. Take advantage of these natural pain and stress busters and find something enjoyable to do every day. It doesn’t have to take a long time and it doesn’t have to cost money – it just has to give you that warm, cozy, relaxed feeling you are longing for.
  7. Set priorities in your life – You can’t do everything. Do what you need to do and what you love to do first. Having unreasonable expectations of yourself only leads to physical and mental exhaustion. Listen to your body! When caring for the person in your life with a serious illness, ask what is most helpful to them. You might be surprised – they might say that they want you to take care of yourself so you can take care of them.
  8. Ask for help when you need it! – Notice when you are feeling tired, unappreciated, unwell or overwhelmed and ask for help. Look for support from your family, friends, and neighbours to help you get that much needed break. If you can’t find adequate support, talk to your doctor or public health nurse and enlist their help in accessing resources in your community.
  9. Make a commitment to yourself to make adjustments when you notice life is difficult. Don’t just talk about changing – do it. Taking control of your own situation will make a world of difference. You will feel empowered and will be able to find joy and fulfillment in the midst of your challenges.