7 Tips to Avoid Caregiver Burnout

You need to make time for yourself in order to avoid the stress that could lead to caregiver burnout. Here's how.

View as Slideshow

You need to take care of you.

You need to take care of you.iStockphoto/Thinkstock
If you’re feeling stressed out in your caregiving role, you’re not alone, but it doesn’t mean you should suffer caregiver burnout to the point of depression. It happens more often than you may think: According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, between 40 to 70 percent of caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression. One quarter to one half of those studied meet the diagnostic criteria for major depression and are at risk for emotional, mental and physical health problems.

By nature, caregivers are giving people who often don’t take time to address their own needs. But how well you take care of yourself can have a huge impact not only on your overall well-being, but on the person you most care about. Here, seven ways to de-stress and take care of you.

1. Shift your focus.

1. Shift your focus.Fuse/Thinkstock
By allowing time to focus on you, you’re more apt to recognize early signs of chronic stress and caregiver burnout, explains psychologist Dr. Janet Scarborough Civitelli, who has worked with families and caregivers in hospitals and community mental health settings. “Many people don’t realize how gradually stress and burnout can creep up, or recognize the need for self-care until it’s too late," Civitelli says. "Half the battle is being proactive and preventing burnout, which is better than needing to recover from it later.”

2. Set aside "you" time.

2. Set aside "you" time.Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock
Civitelli suggests, “Even when you don’t feel you ‘need’ it because you’re a caregiver, you need it! Take some time doing something you love.” Having something visibly written on your calendar, like a book club meeting, will be a reminder that you’ve committed that time. Stick to it.

Content continues below ad

3. Look for your own support.

3. Look for your own support.iStockphoto/Thinkstock
Caregiver support programs are available through hospitals, mental health agencies, and churches. Sharing your experiences with other caregivers will help you feel less alone and will “normalize” common feelings of helplessness, sadness, burnout, and frustration. If you believe you are depressed or anxious, you may want to seek a therapist’s help.

4. Commit to exercise and relaxation.

4. Commit to exercise and relaxation.iStockphoto/Thinkstock
Studies have shown exercise has a positive effect on stress. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has found that in some cases where people suffered from symptoms of depression and anxiety, exercise was just as effective as medication to help them feel better. Likewise, relaxing activities can decrease stress; deep breathing in yoga and meditation can even reduce your heart rate. Sign up for a class and find your Zen.

5. Rejuvenate and recharge.

5. Rejuvenate and recharge.Jupiterimages/Thinkstock
Some people find that enjoying nature and outdoor activities is very rejuvenating, or they stimulate their senses by visiting a museum, attending a concert, or taking a cooking class. What works for you? You might renew and energize after getting a massage or other pampering, feel-good experiences.

Content continues below ad

6. Spend time with pets.

6. Spend time with pets.Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock
Animals aren’t demanding of our time—all they want is to be with and love us, even when we’re cranky. They've been shown to offer health benefits to humans, too; studies from the National Institute of Health have found that pet ownership can actually improve cardiovascular health. Make a point of spending more time with your pets, or a neighbor's; take longer walks with your dog or vow to add more play-time for your cat.

7. Start socializing more.

7. Start socializing more.Reader's Digest
Caregivers spend so much time caring for loved ones that they often neglect to socialize with friends. “Humans are naturally social, so isolation is a risk factor for burnout and depression,” cautions Dr. Civitelli. “You don’t want your world to narrow to the point where all you ever do is work and provide care. There also has to be time for pleasure and being with people who can build you up.”

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you the newsletter each week, and we may also send you occasional special offers from Reader's Digest. For more information please read our privacy policy.

One thought on “7 Tips to Avoid Caregiver Burnout

  1. this article misses one major point…. if the caregiver takes time for his/her/self, who takes care of the patient? I took care of a terminally ill spouse a long time, I could not afford $45+ per hour for someone to stay with him so I could go to a “support group”, it was tough enough paying someone to stay with him for an hour just so I could go get groceries & prescriptions or get to the dentist, as he was not able to walk or even get to the bathroom. The caregiver needs help and a good night’s sleep, not a night on the town. “Help” is a joke unless you have funds to pay for it privately, even hospice did not help us. Caregivers mostly put their patient first and will not leave them alone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane.

Dennis Miller

I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”

Kevin Nealon

“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram


A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.

Comedian Greg Davies

Funny Jokes

Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.


Funny Jokes

Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.

From clientsfromhell.net

Funny Jokes

My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.”


Funny Jokes

“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 

@yoyoha (Josh Hara)

Funny Jokes

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.

—Jerry Seinfeld

Funny Jokes

Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?

A: A mechanic.

Fields marked with an * are required
Foods That Harm Foods That HealWant a Free eBook?
FOODS THAT HARM, FOODS THAT HEAL offers important information about the role diet plays in the struggle against heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other serious illnesses. Answer the question below to receive your FREE digital eBook.

Someone in my household experiences the following conditions:

Send me a link to download FOODS THAT HARM, FOODS THAT HEAL:
By clicking below, I agree to the Trusted Media Brands Privacy Policy