Anyone who has ever had to look for personal assistants can tell you that finding a good personal assistant is very difficult. As Chris Lenart discussed in a previous post, “caregiving is a job where a few people can do well,” and anyone who decides to be a full-time personal assistant has a lot to consider. The lives of people with disabilities wouldn’t be the same without them, and many of us – even the families of those with disabilities – come to rely on them greatly.
However, how often do we stop and think about who is taking care of them? Sometimes, people who take on roles as personal assistants end up with “personal assistant burnout” – a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that comes from just giving too much of themselves to the people they care for. It’s a sad reality of working in the field, and family members who take on these roles are even more susceptible. It’s important that we recognize the signs and symptoms of burnout to ensure that the quality of care our loved ones receive remains on point:
The Signs and Symptoms of Personal Assistant Burnout
Ageucate lists the following as some of the most common signs of caregiver burnout:
- Anxiety, depression, and irritability
- Feeling tired and run down
- Trouble concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Overreacting to minor nuisances
- Drinking, smoking or eating more
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Feeling increasingly resentful
If unaddressed, stress and burnout can impact not just the quality of care you give, but also your relationship with the people you care for. You may start to feel powerless, and stuck in a cycle or a role you didn’t expect, helpless to change things. It may continue to drain your emotional reserves until you start to grow resentful of the responsibilities you have taken on. So, here are some ways to combat caregiver burnout before it gets out of hand:
Fighting Personal Assistant Burnout
Everyone deals with stress differently, but there are some universal ways to help you deal with the stress of being a personal assistant. HelpGuide.org explains that practicing acceptance and avoiding the “emotional trap of feeling sorry for yourself or searching for someone to blame” is one of the best ways to get over the feeling of hopelessness. It’s important to embrace your choice to become a personal assistant and think of the ways that what you do has made you stronger and a better person.
It’s also extremely important to not neglect your own well-being, and as such, you shouldn’t let your role as a personal assistant take over your life. Remember that it doesn’t define you and that you need to invest in other things that give your life meaning and purpose. You should also get enough to eat, enough exercise, and enough sleep. Parsley Health details that in order to reduce stress, you need to “flex your parasympathetic nervous system, which is engaged during rest and relaxation and helps to calm your body and your mind”. They recommend incorporating more yoga and meditation into your daily routine to help your body and your mind deal with the stress.
Lastly, as Hospital News emphasizes, you need to recognize that you aren’t alone. Even though it may sometimes feel like the burden lands squarely on your shoulders, you aren’t alone on your journey as a personal assistant. Talk to someone you trust – be it a doctor, a friend, a family member, or a therapist – to see that you get the help you need.