Caregiver Burnout: How to Recognise the Signs & Avoid Disaster

Overwhelmed. Undervalued. Unappreciated.

These are the feelings many Australian caregivers experience from the moment they wake up in the morning up until they go to sleep at night.

As personal injury lawyers, we have witnessed first hand the traumatic effects accidents and injuries have not just on victims, but on carers who must also pick up the pieces.

Caring is rarely a one-off or short-term task, and whether acting as a carer is your job or a responsibility that’s fallen into your lap, the various ways you first coped when you started out on your caregiving journey may not sustain you in the long-term.

In this blog, we want to help carers by:

  • Highlighting the warning signs of caregiver burnout
  • Offering practical ways to cope with stress
  • Providing a list of resources for caregivers who need professional help

14 Signs You’re Headed For a Burnout

While concerned family and colleagues often tell caregivers “look after yourself”, negative symptoms usually creep up so slowly that carers don’t realise the importance of their own suffering until a full-fledged burnout has taken hold.

Red flags to look out for include:

  1. Anxiety about going to work or day-to-day life
  2. Feeling emotionally and physically fatigued even when you get enough sleep
  3. Being unable to relax even if you get a few days off or go on holiday
  4. Having trouble sleeping or relying on sleep medications
  5. Being easily set off by minor annoyances
  6. Feeling hopeless and helpless
  7. Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
  8. Feeling resentful
  9. Overeating, excessive drinking and smoking
  10. Having trouble focussing
  11. Withdrawal from friends and family
  12. Getting sick more than you used to
  13. Wanting to hurt yourself or the person you’re caring for
  14. Feeling like your life revolves around caregiving

Many caregivers find it very hard to tell someone when they start experiencing these warning signs, often believing that these negative symptoms are a reflection of their character or ability.

It’s also very common for caregivers to feel guilty about the way their role makes them feel, which just continues the hidden cycle of stress and unhappiness.

6 Self-Care Practices for Carers

Practising self-care is essential for everyone, but when you’re a carer, it’s critical.

Self-care practices that you can start right now include:

  1. Taking time for yourself: List the activities you like doing and make sure they are a part of your life. Even if you only have 30 minutes a day to yourself, it’s essential that you are spending that time replenishing the energy you expend in your role as a carer.
  2. Setting boundaries and limits: You can’t compromise your health or happiness for someone else. By using a journal and/or getting professional help, you can reflect on the root of your unhappiness, recognise your limitations and learn how to enforce them assertively.
  3. Establishing a routine: Carers often exert so much energy establishing other’s routines they don’t have time to look after themselves. Schedule your week in advance, making sure to include time to take care of your chores, connect with friends and family, and periods where you just do nothing.
  4. Asking for help: Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to reach out for help. Find networks of people who you can talk with freely (whether that be an official support group or just a Facebook community), get counselling, and consider delegating our outsourcing tasks you don’t have time to do.
  5. Getting enough sleep: Mental health and good sleep go hand in hand. Set a bedtime, avoid looking at screens after dark, and if you still have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor.
  6. Appreciate yourself: Don’t downplay how important your role is. As a carer, you provide a service that is incredibly valuable – something you can forget when you get no appreciation from the people who receive most of your energy. One way to overcome this is to tell yourself the positive feedback you wish others would give. If, however, you’re feeling down more often than not, you should seek professional help.

Where to Get Help in Australia

Fortunately, there are many resources available for carers in Australia. If you need someone to talk to, you want information on additional resources, or you’re in crisis, you can access free 24/7 counselling from:

Lifeline: 13 11 14

MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978

Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 46 36

Headspace: 1800 650 890

Or, you can find a local carer support group and gain access to free counselling specifically for carers on the Queensland Government Support for Carers page.

For more information about your rights as a carer, or the rights of the person you’re caring for, get in touch with one of our solicitors today for an obligation-free chat. Simply call 07 3607 3274, email or fill in our online contact form.