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Could I be mentally tired?

This is a question that as a live-in carer, you may have thought about. Sometimes the amount of stress we seem to be under, and the amount of physical work we do can leave us drained and wondering if we are more than just exhausted.

Mental exhaustion is a product of long-term stress. Some of the effects are feeling completely overwhelmed with problems which seem impossible to overcome.

There are some very distinct symptoms of mental exhaustion which should give you a good idea of whether you are just worn down or in fact mentally exhausted.

It is important to note that you may not be feeling all the symptoms to be mentally exhausted.

Physical signs include:

  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Weight gain or loss (without reason)
  • Insomnia
  • Upset stomach
  • Change in appetite (either eating much less or far more)
  • More colds and flu

Emotional signs

  • Apathy
  • Feeling depressed all the time
  • Pessimism
  • Cynicism
  • Anxiety
  • Constant feelings of anger
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling detached

Behavior changes

Because mental exhaustion affects so many things in our daily life it will also seem as if you are behaving in ways that simply ‘are not like you.’

  • Social isolation
  • Social withdrawal
  • Feeling as if you are not doing your job well

There is a difference between stress and mental exhaustion. Everyone experiences stress at one time or another. It is a natural response by our bodies to situations which are either positive or negative.

In a stressful situation such as for example when your train is delayed, and you fear you may miss your flight home you will feel stressed.

Biologically your body releases a surge of stress hormones, and these include adrenaline and cortisol. It is these hormones which help you to think quicker and make instant decisions. As soon as the train arrives, and you know you will catch that flight your body goes back to normal.

Because mental exhaustion is a result of long-term stress your body is in a constant state of stress response and the cortisol levels remain high.

Sooner or later this high level starts to interfere with your daily activities. You notice that your sleep is disrupted, your digestive system seems to go haywire, and your immune system is affected.

What causes mental exhaustion?

This is often called ‘burnout’ and it is most likely related to stress at work, or in the case of live-in carers, stress in a placement. It is a prolonged period of stress in any part of life.

One thing to remember is that the triggers for mental exhaustion differ from person to person, some triggers are easy to spot and others not so obvious.

Common causes of mental exhaustion include:

  • Long working hours
  • Financial stress
  • Job dissatisfaction
  • Poor work-life balance
  • Lack of social support

Other causes which every live-in carer must deal with everyday are:

  • Dealing with chronic illnesses
  • Death of someone close to us

How can we deal with this?

Ideally you need to remove the stressor or trigger, although as every live-in carer knows, this is sometimes just not possible.

Ask for help

If you feel overwhelmed, you should not be reluctant to ask for help. If you seem to be overwhelmed talk to your agency first. You should have a support team who can advise you on how to get relief. Family may also be able to arrange another person who can give you some extra time off.

Take a break

Remove yourself from the situation. Get out of the house on your breaks. Go for a walk, visit a landmark in the area, get your hair done. Anything to remove yourself from the stressful situation.

Get some exercise

By law you should be getting two hours off each day. If not, ask why not. But if you are, get some exercise. Join a local gym and spend some time there. Map out some walking routes in the area and head out.

Learn to relax (easier said than done!)

Relaxation techniques hep to lower stress, this is a proven fact.

Find a yoga class in your break or check out online classes. Practice deep breathing exercises. Book a massage.

Get more sleep

If your client constantly wakes you during the night, it may be time for a discussion about a night carer. You simply cannot survive on permanent disrupted sleep, and this will cause you to be stressful.

Keep a gratitude diary

Every day before you go to bed write down the things that you are grateful and thankful for. This can be anything you like, write it down.

Keeping a diary of things that you are grateful for will led to a reduced level of stress and a better sense of well-being.

Medical treatment

If nothing seems to help you and you still feel mentally exhausted, you may opt to see a doctor. Talk to your doctor, he may suggest medication to help you cope. This would be either anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications which you may or may not be inclined to take. The choice is up to you and your doctor would prescribe the medication most suitable for you.

Make a change

If the reason for your mental exhaustion is the client you are caring for, then it may be time for a change. Approach your agency or start looking around for another placement.

Final thoughts

Mental exhaustion can be treated. Never feel that you need to keep this all to yourself. However, one thing to remember is that if nothing seems to be working, you may want to remove yourself from the trigger situation.

Nothing is worth damaging your health for, and while you can be easily replaced at a placement, you can never be replaced in your family.

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