Selflessness is among the highest virtues in our culture. Where would we be if not for extraordinary people who put others ahead of themselves? Selfless acts are the cement that holds our society together.
However, there is such thing as too much selflessness, especially when it comes to caregiving.
Selfless caregivers run the greatest risk of caregiver burnout: the emotional and physical exhaustion that comes with putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own. Not only does selflessness hurt the caregiver, but also the person who needs care.
Before you commit to total selflessness, consider how these unintended consequences can hurt you and your loved ones.
Selflessness Leads to Stress, and Stress Makes You Sick
Caregiving is a demanding job. It takes a mix of physical strength, mental sharpness, and emotional resilience — all things that suffer when you’re under the weather.
There is growing evidence that stress has a powerful effect on the immune system. People who suffer from anxiety, depression, loneliness, and social isolation are more vulnerable to illness and other physical problems like heart disease.
By putting your emotional needs aside, but you unwittingly put yourself at a greater risk of getting sick. That’s just what you want to avoid when someone requires your constant care.
On the surface, taking time away from your loved one to de-stress may seem selfish, but it’s one of the best ways to ensure you’ll be there for them.
Your Loved Ones Share Your Pain
Unfortunately, caregiver burnout can bring out the worst in us. It leads to short tempers and total emotional fatigue.
A selfless caregiver’s stress inevitably rubs off on the people in their care. It takes a toll on relationships, work, and experiences outside of caregiving as well.
Put simply, you aren’t your best self when you’re burned out, and burnout is inevitable if you practise total selflessness.
Caregivers Need to Be Strong
Caregivers develop quite a diverse resume. They become cooks, housekeepers, nurses, coaches, money managers and schedulers all-in-one! But we often forget one of the most important and underrated roles of a caregiver: the advocate.
As a caregiver, you’re the one who ensures your loved one gets the quality of care and service they deserve. You ask questions, raise concerns, and request help when your loved one can’t speak for themselves. You are their voice.
It’s hard to be an advocate when you have a habit of folding to every request put to you. If you won’t stand up for yourself, where will you find the strength to stand for those in your care?
Advocating for your loved ones takes confidence, and that starts with taking care of your own needs.
Selflessness Sows Resentment
Caring feels good. It’s immensely gratifying to know you’re making an important difference in the life of someone you love.
However, although many caregivers take on the role out of love, there is often a sense of obligation as well. And over time, that tension can lead to resentment.
When you selflessly ignore your needs, caregiving is a chore. It becomes an obstacle that stands in the way of your health and happiness. It shouldn’t be that way.
Caring for an elderly relative is an opportunity to enrich the time you have left together. But that can only happen if you are well. That means caring for yourself first.
Finding Time for Self-Care as a Caregiver
The times when it’s difficult to practice self-care are often the times you need it the most. That’s true when it comes to being a caregiver. However, there are options for caregivers who need time to themselves. Learn more about Right at Home Canada's respite services.
We can help make sure there’s always someone there for your loved one. Talk to us today.