5 Symptoms of Burnout and How to Prevent It

A photo by Volkan Olmez. unsplash.com/photos/wESKMSgZJDoWHAT IS BURNOUT?

You might have said or heard someone say that they feel “burnt out” after a long hike or several task-filled days. Chances are that there is some self-awareness in this personal observation. The person knows that they’re tired and that they will now have to rest to get back to feeling their best.

Unfortunately, experiencing burnout is much more serious. It often creeps up on caregivers who have not been practising self-care and the mindfulness needed to know that they need to slow down and get support.

According to HelpGuide.org, “burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place. Burnout reduces productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give.”


CHRONIC FATIGUE | “In the early stages, you may feel a lack energy and feel tired most days. In the latter stages, you feel physically and emotionally exhausted, drained, and depleted, and you may feel a sense of dread for what lies ahead on any given day.”

FORGETFULNESS/IMPAIRED CONCENTRATION AND MEMORY | “Lack of focus and mild forgetfulness are early signs. Later, the problems may get to the point where you can’t get your work done and everything begins to pile up.”

INCREASED ILLNESS | “Because your body is depleted, your immune system becomes weakened, making you more vulnerable to infections, colds, flu, and other immune-related medical problems.”

ANXIETY | “Early on, you may experience mild symptoms of tension, worry, and edginess. As you move closer to burnout, the anxiety may become so serious that it interferes in your ability to work productively and may cause problems in your personal life.”

ANGER | “At first, this may present as interpersonal tension and irritability. In the latter stages, this may turn into angry outbursts and serious arguments at home and in the workplace.”

If you are reading this and feel that you are already experiencing burnout, you must get help immediately. Visit your family doctor or see a counsellor of therapist to get support and create a path to wellness.


We regularly encourage caregivers to learn and practice the skills needed to take care of themselves so that they can take care of their loved ones. Practicing self-care is a journey, and it is common to at times feel that you are taking care of yourself as well as you could be, and at other times to be struggling. That said, there are lots of things that you can regularly do to prevent burnout. Here are a few tips:

PRACTICE GOOD SLEEP HYGIENE | Drink calming teas, turn off screens an hour before sleeping, and avoid stimulants like caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime.

EXERCISE | Just half an hour of gentle exercise a day can ease stress, promote sleep, and aid digestion. Park further away from your destinations, or go for a short walk after your morning coffee. Find creative ways to fit activity in to your day.

DELEGATE | You can not do it all alone. If you are lucky, you have friends and family that help care for your loved one. Talk to them and let them know that you could use some more support. Be specific, and delegate tasks and chores. If you do not feel that you have friends and family to ask for support from, you still have options. Look in to low-cost home care services or respite.

What do you do to practice self-care and prevent burnout? We’d love for you to share your perspective with our caregiving community!


Cassandra Van Dyck

*From Psychology Today.


In Praise of Hygge

candle light

Hygge, pronounced ‘hooga’, could be defined in a number of ways, such as:

  • ‘the art of creating intimacy’
  • cosiness
  • creating a soothing atmosphere
  • ‘cocoa by candlelight’

In Canada, we have our own concept of hygge. We call it: ‘hominess’. Other cultures have similar concepts.

Actually, the idea of hygge goes back a long way, to Denmark in the early 1800s, but the word is originally Norwegian.

Here are 10 aspects of hygge:

  1. Atmosphere
  2. Presence (switch off your phone)
  3. Pleasure (coffee, chocolate etc.)
  4. Equality (‘we over me’)
  5. Gratitude (this is as good as it gets)
  6. Harmony (‘no need to brag about your accomplishments’)
  7. Comfort (warm blankets, sheepskin rugs)
  8. Truce (‘let’s discuss politics another day’)
  9. Togetherness (build relationships, connection)
  10. Shelter (bask in the comfort of your home, however humble)

Hopefully, you enjoyed  a little ‘hyggeness’ during the holidays.  But you can enjoy hygge anytime, though winter is especially ‘hygge-like’. (Think cups of cocoa sipped in front of the fireplace.)

Let us all bring a little more hygge into our lives,

Calm Pond

PS If you really want to get into hygge, see Meik Wiking’s book ‘The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well’ (Penguin, 2016).

Reflecting on 2017

quiet moment

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” – Sorn Kierkegaard

As the calendar year comes to a close, you might be reflecting on the past twelve months. It is natural to look back at this time of year. Holidays can trigger memories dating back to our childhoods.

This time of year can be challenging for caregivers. Aside from the logistical obstacles, such as having your loved one at family dinners or arranging transportation to different events, the holidays can trigger emotions. You might be looking back on years past and notice how different your dynamic is with your care partner this year. Maybe your loved one is unable to participate in festivities and you’re mourning the loss of their presence. Or perhaps you’re just exhausted from a trying year.

Taking time away from the hustle and bustle of events to reflect on how you’re doing is incredibly important. If you’re having a hard time, be kind to yourself. Take some time alone and use these journal writing prompts to get grounded.

What were the highlights of this past year? What were the lowlights?

How am I different this year? How am I the same?

What am I proud of myself for? What can I work on?

Am I taking care of myself as well as I could be? Are there ways I could access more support for myself or my loved one?

What am I looking forward to in 2018? 

How do you reflect on past years? We’d love to hear from you!


Cassandra Van Dyck

On Re-inventing Christmas

This year, my parents and I have a much more relaxed attitude about celebrating Christmas. I’d like to share with you the following quote, which seems to embody my perspective:

“…this was also the era of Martha Stewart, who had a decade-plus run as the queen of perfectionism until she was incarcerated. Homemade Christmas ornaments were all the rage, and Martha was dictating the rules. Here’s a slice of her December to-do list, published helpfully at the front of ‘Martha Stewart Living’; by December 8, all fruitcake baked’ by December 10, all gingerbread houses assembled; clean chandeliers on December 11. And so on.  Women were outdoing themselves at work and on the homefront, contorting themselves like Gumby in the process. Each year, like so many others, I performed the Christmas triathlon , and ended up sick or tired or both. After a few Sisyphean seasons, most of us realized that the more we outdid ourselves, the more we were outdone. I cried uncle.

As the late Laurie Colwin once wrote : ” it Is my opinion that Norman Rockwell and his ilk have done more to make already anxious people feel guilty than anyone else,” It was up to us, she said, to re-invent traditions to make for what she called life’s great luxury-time together.”

pp. 166-67 ‘Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol’, by Ann Dowsett Johnston, Harper Perennial, 2013.

To that I say, Amen. Pass the cranberry sauce.

Enjoy your celebration (however you choose to do so)

Calm Pond

5 Minutes for Self-Care

Making the time to practice self-care can be challenging when you’re a caregiver, but taking even 5 minutes to do something for yourself can make all the difference in how you feel. Here are a few ideas for ways to practice self-care in less than five minutes, taken from out Jan/Feb Family Caregivers Grapevine.

Sing along at the top of your lungs to a song in the car.

Dance to a song you love in your living room.

Set a timer for 5 minutes and write in a journal.

Stretch! Lift your arms above your head. Roll your head from side to side. Try gentle lunges or rotate your wrists and ankles. 

Take some deep breaths! Fill up your lungs and stomach with as much air as you can. Pause, and push it all out! Pause, and repeat. 


3 Ways to Get Rid Of Holiday Stress


As we’ve mentioned before, and as you probably already know, the holidays can be stressful for caregivers. Luckily, there are many ways to reduce and manage holiday-associated stress! Here are a few ideas taken from previous blog posts:

Consume mindfully.

Use one (or more!) of these 98 ways to practice self-care.

Do this guided loving kindness meditation. 

Bonus tip: Remember to reach out if you need to connect. NSCR is hosting one last group in 2017! Join us for our Walk & Talk on Monday, December 18th. Details here. 

Down under Mental Health Websites

Here are two Australian mental health websites that might help:

Mood Gym

This is an interactive website that teaches people to use ways of thinking that will help to prevent depression. It is based on CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).

Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression

This site has three sections: self-help, support for professionals and research.  It includes a depression quiz, information about effective treatments, suggestions for planning activities and problem solving, a list of pleasant activities, and cognitive behavior therapy materials and links. The downloadable fact sheets on depression are particularly useful

See also ‘This Way Up’ a self-help course available on mobile devices.

Hope this was helpful for you.  A lot of good work on mental health has come out in Australia recently.

Calm Pond

The Recipe for Trifle is here!

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Here is the long-awaited recipe for Nigella Lawson’s Ginger Passion fruit Trifle:


400-500g Store-bought sponge cake (usually two loaves)

125 ml Green Ginger Wine (or any dessert wine, or for kid version 125 ml orange juice)

500 ml whipping cream

4 teaspoons icing sugar

8 passion fruit (sliced mango will also do)


Slice or break the sponge and arrange half of them in a shallow dish or cake stand with slight lip or upward curve at edge, then pour half of wine (or juice) over them. Mound up  the remaining half of sponge and pour the remaining wine on top.

Whip the cream with the icing sugar until it is firm but not stiff, you want soft peaks.

Scoop the insides of 2 passion fruit into the bowl of cream and fold in before mounding the cream floppily over the soused sponge.

Scoop out the remaining 6 passion fruit onto the white pile of cream so that it is doused and dribbling with the black seeds and fragrant golden pulp.

Serves 8-10.


Calm Pond



Picture of Yummy Dessert

untitled (4)

Hi Readers,


How do you like my picture of a yummy dessert?

It’s called ‘trifle’ and it comes from Britain, and it’s traditional every holiday season.  Doesn’t it scream holidays to you?

I have a great recipe for ‘Ginger Passionfruit Trifle’ (yum!) from famous TV chef Nigella Lawson’s book ‘Nigella Express’ (2007).

I’d like to give you the full recipe, and I will, just not today. I promise I’ll post it on December 20th, just in time to do some last-minute food shopping (in fact, there are only 4 ingredients, so easy-peazy right?)

Stay tuned…

Calm Pond

PS A bit tired today, mother’s sick.



How to Stay Calm Over the Holidays


It’s December 6th and the holiday season is well under way. How are you feeling?

This time of year can be nurturing, love-filled and warm. It can also be hectic, stressful, and sad. There’s a lot of pressure to attend events, buy presents, and make food. Balancing the stresses of the holidays with your caregiving role can be especially challenging.

Here are a few tips for staying calm over the holiday season:

SAY NO | Does agreeing to attend dinner at a friend’s house bring a lump to your throat? Politely decline. 

PRACTICE MINDFUL CONSUMPTION | One of the biggest causes of stress over the holiday season is the pressure to buy and give gifts. If you’re strapped financially, this pressure and stress can increase. Despite the incessant messages sent from media, the holidays should be about connecting and celebrating with family and friends, not about gifts. Consider talking to your family about skipping presents this year and sharing a meal instead. If your family feels compelled to give and receive gifts, try planning a “secret santa” so you only have to give and receive one present, with a capped dollar amount. You might find that your family is relieved to have a different option presented!

EAT CALMING FOODS | If you’re feeling frazzled and then consume a lot of sweets, heavy meals, and alcohol offered, you’re likely going to feel worse than you did before. Indulging in the fruits of the holiday season is great in healthy amounts, but remember to eat mindfully and support your system with nutritious, balanced meals.

CONNECT | Amidst the business of the holiday season, you might be feeling lonely or isolated if you’ve recently experienced loss, or if you’re spending most of your time caring for a loved one. As mentioned, I invite you to say no to events that don’t serve your spirit. Say yes to events that do. Pushing yourself a little out of your comfort zone and connecting with caregivers who understand and support your journey can make a big difference in how you view the holiday season. Tip: NSCR’s December Network Groups include a potluck! We’d love to see you there. 

How do you stay calm over the holidays? We’d love to hear from you!


Cassandra Van Dyck