If you're a caregiver and a perfectionist, you may be facing an uphill battle. Caregiving is a demanding job and it's critical to accept that not everything will be perfect. As a caregiver, there are many things you cannot control and at the end of the day the most important thing to do is to let go of chasing perfection and simply aim to do your best. This piece will review the negative effects perfectionism has on caregiving.
The Right Mindset to Prevent Caregiver Burnout
Throughout our entire lives, people, maybe even the person you’re caring for, have told us that “nobody’s perfect.” That phrase applies to caregiving more than pretty much any other situation you’ll face throughout the course of your life. This is due to the nature of many of the illnesses you’re dealing with on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
It’s important to accept that there are many facets associated with caregiving that you can’t control and many that you cannot change. Learn from your mistakes, but also forgive yourself. If you ever practiced poor judgement, whether it was before your loved one got sick or while providing care, you need to let it go. Caregivers are under far more stress than the average person, and if you don’t acknowledge that, you’re far more likely to succumb to the causes of caregiver burnout.
Also, caregiver perfectionists tend to think nothing they do is good enough unless it’s perfect. If you’re that type of person, you need to lower your self-standards from “perfect” to “good enough,” because being good at caregiving is all anyone could possibly ask for. Caregivers who set too high of standards for themselves can suffer from low self-esteem, so when you do a good job, take time to acknowledge the difference you’re making and figuratively pat yourself on the back. In caregiving, victories can be few and far between, a fact that has nothing to do with the quality of the care. Even writing down your accomplishments as a caregiver is a healthy tactic. Don’t be afraid to accept a compliment every once in awhile!
Signs Your Perfectionism may be Leading to Caregiver Burnout
Perfectionists are more likely to be stressed, depressed, and are less probable to take breaks or pay attention to their physical health. Those are symptoms that are already associated with caregiver burnout, which is why perfectionism puts caregivers at risk.
Feeling constant fear of failure, constantly tinkering even after a task has been completed and comparing yourself to other caregivers are more signs of unhealthy behaviors exhibited by perfectionists.
Procrastination is another indicator that your attempt at being completely flawless is leading to caregiver burnout. Planning is extremely important when caregiving, but perfectionists tend to over prepare. This idealism can cause unnecessary delays in providing care or even preventing them from ever completing the task at hand.
Negative Effects of Perfectionism on Caregiving
Perfectionists inherently have a higher risk of depression and suicide so considering the additional stress of caregiving, caregivers who are perfectionists need to be extremely cognizant of the mental and physical effects of family caregiving.Those who set impossible standards for themselves are also found to have trouble receiving feedback, which is particularly worrisome in caregiving situations. It’s rare that the caregiver is a total expert on how to care for yourself while caring for an aging parent, so it’s extremely important that they take in advice from doctors or other healthcare professionals when it comes to providing care.
Also, in order to prevent caregiver burnout, caregivers must see a situation for what it is. A perfectionist tends to mentally bend a problem or scenario into how it ought to be, where a caregiver who sees a situation in realistic way is more likely to appropriate react in the moment. Perfectionists are also more likely to dwell on mistakes and be overly hard on themselves for being imperfect, rather than focusing on learning from their errors in order to avoid the same oversights in the future.
Doing Your Best is Enough
Caregiving is a job with many variables, unforeseen circumstances and often unavoidable outcomes. All a caregiver can do is give their best and that’s more than anyone could ask for. If you ever find yourself doubting the quality of you’re providing, just remember: you do enough, you care enough, you are enough.
Hear From Our Expert
Watch this video with Bob Scott, from the Jersey Shore office, for more advice on how to keep perfectionism from burning you out.