Daughters, are you feeling totally burned out, exhausted, furious, on edge, out of your mind crazy? It’s okay. It’s just the Daughter (Caregiver) Burnout B(W)itch. Read more to find out some recommendations for sending her ‘on her way’.
Fury. That’s the only word I can think of to describe the level of frustration and anger raging inside my exhausted spirit and body. It pulsates through me like a violent fire and takes only one little word, phone call or a mere thought to set it off. Kind of like a gas grille you’ve been clicking the starter on for ten minutes and all of a sudden the flames fly out and singe your eyelashes. This is what I call “daughter burnout” aka caregiver burnout. It’s ugly. It’s harsh. It’s explosive and it’s uncontrollable if left unaddressed. Sarcastic thoughts invade your mind and fly out of your mouth chewing up your loved ones like a garbage disposal shredding the ends of a carrot. You watch yourself in disbelief. Who’s the lunatic screaming about having to rewash clothes that someone forgot to put in the dryer? (Really?) Who’s the nutcase going bananas because the Internet went down and the latest episode of Gilmore Girls was cut short? (Note: To the people who love this lunatic nutcase, whatever you do – do NOT suggest she calm down or go get centered or take better care of herself. If you do, be prepared to be buried by a tsunami of profanity and reminded of past sins you committed ten years ago and thought were long forgotten).
Yep. It’s a wild ride this thing we call caregiving or better yet, living in the ‘daughter hood’.
You’re walking along just minding your own business and, all of a sudden, you’re thrown into a hurricane of craziness that picks you up, whips you around and drops you in places you’ve never in your life imagined you’d end up. You sit there stunned, in disbelief. Then, with every ounce of energy you have along with a bruised heart and an aching back you get up and start all over again.
I’m still traveling this journey so I’m sure I have many more lessons to learn, but here’s what I know so far about keeping the Daughter Burnout B(W)itch at bay:
1) Pay attention and watch for signs like:
- Your brain’s on fire with an overloaded circuit of thoughts and it’s difficult to know which one to act on first.
- You find yourself forgetting where you’re driving or end up at your destination and don’t remember getting there.
- You’re having a conversation – either in your head or out loud – while alone – with the person you’re caring for or others in your family whom you don’t feel are ‘stepping up’.
2) Ask for help before you reach the point of no return.
- Tell your friends, family members, neighbors, and/or religious support system that you need help (and, most importantly, tell them what they can do to help).
- If you don’t have friends, family members, neighbors, and/or a religious support system, go see a therapist who specializes in helping people through life transitions or a caregiving consultant (Note: I’ve met several impressive consultants recently. Jodi Hempel, Colleen Kavanaugh and Elizabeth Miller are three who really standout). If money’s an issue or as an adjunct to other means of support – sign up for free, practical caregiving tips delivered via email at Daily Caring or join a free online support group site like Caregiving.com. Last but not least, Facebook has a variety of community groups that we’ll introduce in a future blog. For now, check out Working Daughter, Daughterhood, Sould2Soul: Family Caregiver Community and SanGenWoman: The Heart of the Sandwich Generation.
Sleep is huge and one of the biggest weapons in maintaining sanity, but, it’s also one of the trickiest ones especially for women who are stressed out (and, even more so, for stressed out women in perimenopause or menopause). Fighting insomnia is one of the most challenging battles out there. I wish I had more insight to share on this one. Everyone is different and there’s no ‘magic bullet’. If this is your Achilles Heel – then make it a priority to find the solution that works for you or at least one that works more nights than not.
4) Avoid sugar (as much as possible).
This one’s a struggle for many of us. It’s a scientific fact that when we’re stressed we crave sugar and when we eat sugar we crave sugar and when we crave and eat sugar it wreaks all kinds of havoc on our blood sugar levels, which significantly impact our moods. Again, pay attention. Did you happen to have a big fat bowl of Ben & Jerry’s Coffee and Cookie Dough the night before the Daughter Burnout B(W)itch made her debut? If so, it’s time to seriously stop the sugar spin cycle.
5) Exercise your ability to say ‘yes’ when you mean ‘yes’ and ‘no’ when you mean ‘no’.
Does the word ‘resentment’ mean anything to you? Swallowing your truth and not setting the boundaries you need in order to feel rested and ‘centered’ is no one’s fault but your own (I’m preaching to myself here). Internal resistance is our friend. It tells us when enough’s enough. How often do you ignore your internal resistance friend? Listen to her and what’s she’s telling you. She’s trying to protect you from over commitment and / or getting involved in activities that drain you or are just too much for ‘right now’. Take a social and/or social media sabbatical or even a caregiver sabbatical for a week or month. The latter may not be as easy, but it’s definitely worth assembling a support team or investing in a local respite care organization to give you time away.
Tell us what’s worked for you in warding off the Daughter Burnout B(W)itch? We’re all in this together and would love to hear your words of wisdom.