Foster parenting is hard work! One of the most important things you can do for a foster child is to take care of yourself: body, mind, soul and spirit. Forgetting to take some “me-time” not only contributes to the burnout rate, but it also affects the family and children you are caring for.
The symptoms of burnout occur in stages. Often times a foster parent will just feel tired or exhausted at first – but if you let these feelings go unresolved they can grow into more serious issues. Some symptoms of burnout include:
- Small health complaints (headaches, stomach aches, back pain)
- Too little or too much sleep
- Feeling sad, angry, irritable and depressed
- Appetite changes
- Lack of motivation and loss of interests in everyday activities which you once enjoyed
- Feelings of hopelessness or being trapped
- Feeling like running away
Luckily, you can be proactive to avoid and deal with burnout. Be aware of your risk factors and know how much you can actually handle. Learn how to relax and work on improving your coping skills. When the going gets tough and you find yourself becoming weary, take some time to de-stress with these simple tips:
- Schedule in some “me-time.” Go for a walk, meet up with friends, read a good book, meditate or pray. Whatever you find relaxing and refeshing – DO.
- Make good lifestyle choices like eating a healthy diet, exercise regularly, practice good sleep habits and practice relaxation techniques.
- Develop and maintain a social support system. Don’t be afraid to ask friends, relatives, neighbors or co-workers for help. And don’t forget about your fellow PRIDE parents and social workers.
- If you are married, don’t forget to take time for your marriage. Make a priority to talk to your partner and work through issues together. Everyone benefits when your marriage is happy, healthy and stable.
- Take some one-on-one time with the children you care for. Most likely, they’re dealing with the same emotions you are. Go out one-on-one with them, or find out what they like to do and make it a priority. It doesn’t have to be expensive or big, just be ready to be them and listen. Make sure it’s their time to express their feelings.