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4 Self-Care Tips When Running On Empty From Caring For Others
Kathryn Brown Ramsperger -- Author & Intuitive Life Coach(R) Kathryn Brown Ramsperger -- Author & Intuitive Life Coach(R)
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Rockville, MD
Friday, March 12, 2021


Caregiving is one of the most selfless things a person can do, yet one of the most challenging. It affects stay-at-home moms of toddlers and parents caring for a disabled child. It affects adults providing care for an elderly parent, and couples where one is taking care of an ill or injured partner. The emotional, physical, and financial toll upon the caregiver is often overwhelming and can quickly lead to burnout. So what can you do as a caregiver to recharge and keep your own mental health intact? In this post we will touch on four self-care tips when you’re running on empty caring for others.

First, what is burnout?

Burnout occurs when a caregiver, or any person for that matter, is not able to get the help they need—whether physically or financially—and they feel like the demands are too much to bear. Anxiety, depression, and exhaustion set in and the caregiver begins to suffer. Severe cases of burnout result in poor appetite, lack of sleep, and in some instances self-medicating with overeating, alcohol, or drugs. And when a caregiver does take some time for themselves to get away or take a break to do something they enjoy, they often feel guilty for doing so.

What can cause caregiver burnout:

Depending on the circumstance, the biggest demand upon a caregiver is time. Not only do caregivers have their own daily responsibilities to perform for themselves, they must do the same for the ones they care for. These tasks may include dressing, bathing, and cleaning up after a loved one, preparing special meals, administering medications, scheduling and taking their loved one to appointments, and seeing that their social and emotional needs are attended to. Caregiving is physically taxing and emotionally draining, even on the most healthy, strong, and compassionate person. And when you throw into the mix having to hold down a full or part-time job, the result is caregiver burnout. There’s a reason that caregivers often die before the ones they’re caring for.

If you’re a caregiver, it’s urgent you take care of yourself now. The following steps can alleviate some of the stress that comes with being a primary caregiver. Your top priority is self-care.

1) Take care of yourself and your own needs.

This seems obvious on the surface, but during the course of a busy day, the last person on the list to receive attention is usually yourself when you’re running on empty caring for others. It’s easy to put off attending to your own needs. You intend to get to them before bed time but fall asleep exhausted on the couch.

Do what you can to get enough sleep, and have some “down time” to relax before bed. Eat a nutritious meal. Get fresh air or go for a walk outdoors. Remember the saying, “you can’t draw water from an empty well?” If you are going to be able to provide all the loving care you desire for your loved one, you must ensure that your “well” is full of water. Ensuring a full “well” will ensure you are not running on empty caring for others. I tell my clients to imagine they’re in the bathtub instead of a well.

Is your bathtub overflowing with other people’s “water” and can’t hold another drop? Is it completely dry and difficult to get even a drop out of the tap? If so, you must look for more water.

2) Ask for help.

Recruit the help of others. Except for extreme circumstances, you don’t have to carry the responsibility for caregiving all by yourself. If you are providing elder care, for example, and you have family members living at home, insist on getting their help. Everybody is busy and has their own lives, but caring for the needs of someone unable to fully care for themselves is a responsibility that should be shared where feasible. Sometimes it isn’t possible in some situations to recruit other family members. For instance, if you are an only child of an ill and aging parent or a single parent to a disabled child. You may need to reach beyond family circles. Look into private and public support services to see if you qualify for assistance.

Assistance comes in the form of financial help, home health services, private care aides, and daycare facilities set up for children and adults with disabilities or who are unable to be left alone. A few organizations that help with adult and child caregiving are:

Elder Care Locator

Family Caregiver Alliance

Childcare.gov, Services for Children with Disabilities

Extension Alliance for Better Childcare

If you’re a mother of young children, consider joining an organization such as MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), or swapping babysitting with a trusted friend or relative a few hours each week. Maybe consider setting up play dates with other young families so the children can play while you’re connecting with other adults.

3) Educate yourself.

Read up on the particular disability or condition affecting the person you are caring for. Know what the condition does, what to expect, and how to handle the challenges arising from such a condition. If your parent has dementia or your child has a learning difference or disability, find out everything you can so that you will have realistic expectations, have the best tools you need to help them, and know when and where to find extra resources. Your research will help you in developing a plan for yourself and for your loved one.

As a caregiver to young children, learn what to expect in their development at different ages. Knowing what a child is and is not capable of at each  age milestone can help you be patient and see the light at the end of the tunnel. As they get older and more independent, you’ll have more time and freedom to enjoy your own pursuits. This statement is true of all children, even those with severe disabilities. It will get easier.

This may not be the case with an aging or critically ill relative or friend, but these days help is at the touch of a computer keyboard. Find out who can help you get a break.

4) Be kind to yourself.

Being kind to yourself means recognizing that you’ll have good days and bad. It’s normal to feel sad, angry, and discouraged, and that forgiveness of self and others is key. Remember that every day is a fresh start and you don’t have to “do it all.” Set small and attainable goals for household chores and organization. Learn to let go of things that are not urgent or important. Be satisfied when you do what you can with the energy you have. Then, go rest, take a break, or go for a walk. Nature is a great healer.

Taking little breaks throughout the day is important for your mental and emotional well-being. These breaks can be as simple as lying down on the sofa, reading an enjoyable article or book, or calling a friend. Five, ten, or fifteen minute breaks scattered over the course of the day and evening can do wonders for your outlook and morale when running on empty caring for others.


As much as we want to be superheroes, the fact remains that we are just as human as anyone and need care too. We cannot run on empty for long before no longer having the strength to take care of ourselves, let alone the other significant people in our lives. Each day is a fresh start. Today is the day to fill the well.

Need some help developing ways to protect yourself and your energy from burnout? You work hard, and you deserve time to find methods that work best for you to lead a prosperous, balanced life. I can help. Please feel free to contact me here for a FREE consultation.

Elder Care Locator:


Family Caregiver Alliance:


Childcare.gov, Services for Children with Disabilities:


Extension Alliance for Better Childcare:


Mothers of Preschoolers:


News Media Interview Contact
Name: Kathryn Brown Ramsperger
Title: Author & Coach
Group: Ground One LLC
Dateline: North Bethesda, MD United States
Direct Phone: 301-503-5150
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