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How to Prevent Caregiver Burnout

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: September 2023

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is not a condition that one can simply "snap out” of. It is a complex mental health challenge that can impact every part of a person's life.1

Caring for a loved one with MDD can be difficult. As a caregiver, your role is critical in providing emotional and practical support for your loved one. But being there for your loved one all the time can be tiring. You are with them through their ups and downs. This responsibility can be stressful, which could lead to caregiver burnout.1,2

Understanding burnout and its possible effects can help you maintain your well-being while continuing to be strong for your loved one. Caregiving is a compassionate endeavor, and with the right tools and knowledge, you can ensure that you and your loved one both receive the care and support you need.1,2

What is caregiver burnout?

Caregiver burnout happens when you feel exhausted, stressed, and overwhelmed because you have been taking care of someone. It can affect anyone in a caregiving role. This includes family members and friends caring for those with MDD.2

The importance of self-care

Just like you help your loved one feel better, make sure you take care of your own needs. Think of it like filling a pitcher before pouring a glass of water. By ensuring your own well-being, you have more to offer and can provide better care for your loved one.2

Tips to prevent burnout

There are many ways to care for your loved one while safeguarding your own well-being.

Seek support and delegate tasks

You do not have to do everything all alone. Reach out to friends, family, or support groups for emotional support. Sharing with others who understand can be comforting and empowering. And therapy can provide you with valuable coping strategies.2

Friends and family also may be able to help with everyday tasks. Divide tasks or days with others who support for help.2

Set realistic goals and expectations

Recognize that you are not a superhero and cannot fix everything. Set achievable goals, and understand that your loved one's recovery journey may involve setbacks. Progress in your loved one's mental health may be gradual. Celebrate small victories, and remember the goal is progress rather than perfection.1,2

Communicate openly about boundaries

Maintain open and honest communication about your needs and limitations with your loved one. Encourage them to express their feelings and concerns as well.2

Define clear boundaries between your caregiving role and personal life. Make time for yourself, your hobbies, and the other people in your life who matter to you.2

Practice self-compassion and prioritize self-care

Be kind to yourself. Acknowledge that caregiving is challenging and that having moments of frustration, sadness, or exhaustion is normal.2

Make self-care a nonnegotiable part of your routine. Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation.2

Educate yourself

Learn more about major depression, its symptoms, and its treatment options. Understanding MDD can help you better support your loved one. It also can help you manage your own stress and worries about the future.1

Consider getting professional help and respite services

Do not be afraid to ask for help from doctors, therapists, or counselors if you find it hard to manage your caregiving duties. A range of professionals is available to help care for your loved one.2

Also, consider respite care services. These trained caregivers can take over temporarily, allowing you to focus on yourself for a while. You may need to hire a caregiver or arrange for temporary support from family or friends. Take breaks to recharge when you need them.2

Stay organized

Organize your caregiving tasks, and prioritize your responsibilities. Use tools like calendars and to-do lists to help you stay organized.2

Learn about helpful resources

Explore local resources, support organizations, and government programs that provide assistance and information for caregivers.1,2

Get regular check-ups

Schedule regular visits with your healthcare provider to monitor your health and well-being. Discuss any signs of stress or burnout that you may be experiencing.2

Caring for a loved one with major depression can be emotionally taxing. But it is a deeply compassionate and vital role. Remember that seeking help and practicing self-care are signs of strength. You do not have to go through the caregiving journey alone.1,2

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