At some point, while trying to help an addict or alcoholic, we may begin to experience feelings of emotional exhaustion, or increased anxiety. These feelings may be associated with burnout – a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that’s often accompanied by a change in attitude. If you feel that you may be experiencing symptoms of burnout, t is important to take immediate action to improve your health and quality of life.
Here is a list of symptoms that may indicate a burnout:
- Feeling unusually tense, irritable or agitated with others
- Feeling irritable
- Being angry at the addicted individual
- Feeling sad, tearful
- Feeling dissatisfied with life in general
- Feeling exhausted & overwhelmed
- Withdrawal from friends and enjoyable activities
- Loss of desire and/or energy
- Lowered immunity: getting sick more often
- Feeling out of control in attempts to manage daily life
- Trouble sleeping and/or disturbing dreams
- Change in appetite
Feeling stressed over long periods of time WILL affect a person’s health, motivation, attitude and mood as well as ability to cope with daily responsibilities.
A Burnout is a result of:
- Not asking for help
- Neglecting own needs
- High expectations of self and others
- A strong and unrealistic dedication to making things better for the other person
- Attempting to control things that are not in our control
- Difficulty saying “no”/ setting limits or boundaries
- Consistently sacrificing self and own needs for the benefit of someone else
- Difficulty following through with enforcing limits/consequences
- Feeling responsible for the other person
- Consistently doing things for the other person that they should be doing for themselves
- Rescuing, Protecting, Fixing
The unrecognized burnout symptoms eventually lead to feelings of exhaustion, hopeless and powerless. Overtime, the affected family member may feel depressed, unable to function, and unable to shift the focus back to him/herself. Digging self out of this point may prove to be extremely difficult. It is recommended that the family seek outside help. Seeing a doctor, mental health professional, an addiction counselor, and/or joining a family support group may be necessary, even for those who have resisted this thus far.
Self-Help Strategies to Cope with Symptoms of Burnout include:
- Letting go
- Accepting own limitations
- saying “no”
- ACCEPTING HELP.
- Scheduling breaks and private time for YOU
- Eating well, getting regular sleep and exercise, and participating in activities you find stress relieving.
- Defining your limits of what you are prepared and able to do
- Talking to a friend, family member, or others
- Finding spiritual strength
- Appreciating efforts
- Acknowledging that it is not your responsibility to “fix it all”.
Some believe that a daily practice of self-compassion such as: self-kindness, acknowledging our own humanity, and practicing mindfulness may also help families recover. Self-kindness refers to the tendency to be caring and understanding with oneself rather than being harshly critical or judgmental. Self-compassion can be extended towards the self when suffering occurs through no fault of one’s own – when the external circumstances of life are simply too painful or difficult to bear, or else when our suffering stems from one’s own mistakes, failures or personal inadequacies.
Self-kindness comes from Buddhist cultures and is less intentionally cultivated in the West.
In comparison to self-esteem, self-kindness does not require that we feel superior to others. Self-kindness is not an evaluation of ourselves at all, but is an attitude we adopt toward our own failure and suffering. Researchers have identified three components to self-compassion:
- Self-kindness is a positive, proactive attitude toward oneself. It is not simply the absence of negative attitudes. For instance, the absence of self-judgment does not necessarily mean that one is compassionate toward oneself.
- The idea of “Common humanity” involves recognizing that all humans are imperfect, fail and make mistakes. It is a perspective that views our own failings and feelings of inadequacy as part of the human condition shared by nearly everyone. By contrast, people who isolate tend to feel alone in their failure.
- Mindfulness involves being aware of one’s painful feelings in a clear and balanced manner so that one neither ignores nor obsesses about disliked aspects of oneself or one’s life.
If you’re a family member affected by addiction, try giving yourself compassion the next time you make a mistake or feel challenged beyond your ability to cope. Not only will it help to get through difficult situations, it will lead to greater happiness and peace of mind.