PTSD Caregiver Burnout

Caregiver burnout can affect anyone living with an individual with PTSD due to the stress involved in providing care for that individual. Symptoms include:

  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Irritability
  • Exhaustion
  • Depression

In addition to burnout, caregivers may experience Secondary Traumatization or Vicarious Traumatization. When this occurs, the caregiver has some of the same symptoms as the individual they are caring for who has PTSD. Secondary traumatization comes on suddenly. It is believed it occurs in caregivers who are traumatized by the distress and suffering they see in the person they are caring for.

PTSD can be hard on everyone it touches. If you find you are suffering from caring for a loved one who has PTSD, please, get help. A qualified mental health professional can help you deal with the stress.

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Written Goals

In dealing with PTSD as with other areas of our lives, setting goals seems to be a part of successful coping. If I set a goal of taking a step outside my comfort zone and attending a family gathering, or plan an outing with a friend, it helps me get through the event. For example, if I decide to go out to a movie with a friend, this one time I can manage it.   It doesn’t mean I have to make it a weekly event, or even that I have to go to the theater. I can choose to go to the drive-in movies if I want. It’s still an outing and by planning on it, I can manipulate the circumstances so it becomes something I can handle and even enjoy.

Writing goals down has been shown to influence their success. I wonder if it’s not because when it’s written down in black and white, I think more about it and can visualize what is going to happen. By mentally rehearsing the situation, I’m more prepared to handle it with finesse. While I may not like pushing my boundaries, it’s a healthy thing to do. It strengthens my relationships and it helps me feel better about myself too. My main goal is to not let PTSD rule my life, and that’s a pretty good goal to work toward!

Feeling Out of Sorts

The weather has finally turned beautiful and it’s time to enjoy summer…but what happens when we don’t feel like enjoying anything? Along with the fun parts of summer life come the difficult parts: mowing the lawn, sticky heat, kids under foot during summer break, etc. Sometimes I don’t feel like being happy. I just want to hide out and let life roll on by. And sometimes that is okay too, but not all the time.

The worst thing about feeling out of sorts is that I know it bothers my family and friends. They just don’t understand that sometimes I can’t pretend that everything is perfect. Sometimes I just need to have a “rotten day!”   While I don’t try to be nasty to the people around me, I just don’t want to socialize with them. I guess maybe it’s a case of my needing to wallow a bit before I move on.

Whatever the reason, those are the days I try to simply shut up and stay low.   I avoid my family and friends, and it’s really for their own good: I know I’m not good company. I don’t even want to be good company! But, it doesn’t last forever and they need to know that too.

Sometimes I just want to do my own thing and not have everyone wondering if it’s because my PTSD is “acting up.” If it is, it’s my own business and I’ll get over it. I try to let those people who are important to me know that they don’t have to worry. I’ll be okay. I just need a little time on my own, and that’s not such an awful thing.

Journaling

Sometimes writing about an event or just about your life in general can help you identify your feelings and work through different ways of thinking about negative events. Writing can help you process your feelings and see alternative ways of thinking about what happened.

When I journal about events and experiences that I have encountered, I try to express some of the physical feelings I associate with the situation by adding some color to the paper. For instance, if I am talking about an experience laden with negative emotional overtones, I might surround what I’ve written with black or dark colored ink.   While it may seem simplistic, it helps me visualize my feelings in relation to the event. Somehow, expressing those feelings helps me release some of the tension associated with them.

Journaling can be one way of releasing some of the stress related to specific experiences that have a negative impact on our lives. Writing down what happened, how it made you feel, and other ways you might try coping with it can help you release the emotion surrounding the event. Doing that seems to reduce the power it has over me. I hope it works for you too.

Working Smarter, Not Harder

As I get older, I’m finding that I have less patience, less strength, and less ability to bounce back from stressful situations. PTSD always seems to make the situation worse. I’m finding that what I really need to do is work smarter, not harder.

For one thing, I can’t work harder. I no longer have the strength I did when I was younger. As a senior citizen, I’m only able to do a part of the work I did in the past, at least where physical strength is required.   I’d like to think I automatically work smarter, and I believe I do, but I need to slow down and think things through more often so I’m using my head and not my limited muscle.

While I may find it more difficult to recall things than I did when I was younger, I now have a world of experience to draw from and a lot more savvy. That makes a difference. I am learning to listen to my body when it tells me it’s time to stop and take a break, even when I’m in the middle of a project. I will get things done, just not all at once, and the quality of my work is better when I come back at it fresh rather than trying to force my way through.

I often grump about how old age is so awful, but I need to remember that the alternative isn’t that great either! I can either use my head and take a bit more time to get things done, or I can try to bull my way through and pay the price later on. I’m sick of paying the price. My body hurts too much for that anymore. It’s really time to work smarter, not harder.

Making it Through the Holidays

Another holiday has past, and I can’t tell you how glad I am that it is over. Unfortunately, with PTSD, holidays seems to bring more bad than good. I don’t like the stress that comes with getting everything ready and knowing family will be coming in with their own expectations that they demand I live up to. I’m learning every year a bit more about how to say “No” and how to choose my own path rather than letting everyone else around me buffer me around.

Over the years, I’ve learned to weather the storm, so to speak. I try to just close my mouth and not let myself be drawn into defending my own beliefs from those who think they have to convert my thinking to theirs. I stick to myself quite a bit, but I do try to step out of my safety zone and interact with others, at least to the extent that I’m not a complete hermit. But I’m so much more comfortable without all the posturing and posing that comes with social interaction.

I made it through another holiday. It wasn’t as painful as it used to be. It wasn’t as good as I would like it to be either. But, I made it through. I guess that is the one thing they can say about those of us with PTSD: we are survivors. I’m glad of that.

Beating Holiday Stress

Surviving the holidays can be quite a chore! Parties, baking, cleaning the house, in-laws arriving, the list seems to be endless, and with each new item comes more stress. During the holiday season more than any other time throughout the year, stressors seem to pile up on us. Remembering to take time out for ourselves becomes important at this time of year.

Remember all those different stress relievers you have learned over the years and put them to good use. Try deep breathing, meditation, listening to soft music, muscle relaxation, and any other way you can think of to reduce your stress load. You, and those around you, will enjoy the season more if you are not stressed to the breaking point.

The holidays can be a wonderful time of year if we keep calm and don’t allow ourselves to become overwhelmed by all that needs to be done. Take some time away from others if it helps you too. This should be a cheerful, fun time of year, not a frantic load of work. Enjoy the holidays…you deserve it!