Blog #92 Burn-out and How to Avoid It
Recently, I have noticed that many of my patients suffer from exhaustion due to taking care of ailing or dying relative and friends. Sometimes, these care-takers perceive that they have little or no time to care for themselves during these stressful months or years, and end up experiencing such physical and emotional pain and exhaustion that they have difficulty resuming their normal lives.
It is so important to care for yourself, even during the stressful and demanding times that you function as a care-taker. Making sure that you eat nutritious food is essential, as is staying sufficiently hydrated. Some people forget to eat or drink for many hours or even for a day or more. And though occasionally, fasting is beneficial for health, it is advisable to fast during times when you can rest more than usual and when you are not under significant stress. Recently, one person diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and caring for a close relative with severe dementia sent her blood sugar spiraling out of control because she was only eating one handful of potato chips a day. She was unable to sleep and was having headaches, abdominal pain, constipation and almost constant leg cramps. Fortunately, she was drinking plenty of water. When she broke her fast sensibly, by first eating a salad and later on, half of a sandwich, her blood sugar returned into a safe range, her sleep returned to normal, the leg cramps, abdominal pain and headaches dissipated, and her bowels resumed moving normally.
When care-taking responsibilities continue for long periods of time, people can eventually suffer from adrenal exhaustion, depression, and severe fatigue. Some may develop food sensitivities or an autoimmune illness such as fibromyalgia or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Others may develop chronic back pain and degenerative spinal changes may accelerate, sometimes contributing the development of bulging or herniated spinal discs.
Even though eating properly, staying hydrated, getting sufficient sleep, and periodically obtaining emotional support and physical assistance with tasks may feel like an impossibility, the alternative, self-neglect, will usually cost much more inconvenience time, money and suffering in the long run. We sometimes feel that the entire world rests on our shoulders and that a loved one will perish if not for us. However, the world around us shows a very different picture: life will continue on and people will survive even when we pass away. But we won’t get a chance to experience life anymore, nor will we get the chance to offer help and inspiration to others if we are incapacitated or our lives end due to extreme self-neglect.
Some people find someone to prepare food for them, find a nutritious food service to deliver meals, or make time for food preparation. Everyone must allow themselves sufficient time to sleep at night, and also sometimes to rest during the day. Listening to enjoyable music, reading uplifting literature, or meditating is important, as is getting some exercise, such as yoga, tai chi or walking on a daily basis. Of course, sometimes care-taking is labor intensive on its own and can be good exercise.
Over the years, I have noticed that many people develop a significant illness within a year of a loved-one’s death. One way to prevent this or at least to reduce the severity is through regular self-care. Often, it is advisable to also obtain supportive care from one or more holistic health professional, such as a chiropractor, acupuncturist, massage therapist, herbalist or nutritionist. Counseling may also be helpful. All of this may sound self-evident, but when we are in the midst of overwhelming responsibilities, or in the throes of exhaustion afterward, we often forget all about self-care until it is too late. Then we may end up needing intensive care ourselves.
This blog’s offer: consider making an appointment for some supportive health-care, including chiropractic, acupuncture, dietary suggestions, nutritional supplementation, or even Chi Gong instruction.