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Caretaker Burnout in Women: Five Root causes & Five Ways to Alleviate them

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

Last Updated November 6, 2023 by Misty Sky



woman in orange jumpsuit sitting next to a tree, looking out into the distance, her face looks lost in thought.

Today, I will talk about caretaker burnout in women - five possible reasons why it happens, and five ways to resolve the effects of it.


First, I want to preface this by saying that I am so PROUD of you and everything you are as a soul. Women are often not cherished and appreciated the way they deserve to be. I intend this article to help you gain a sense of self-confidence in how to move forward in your current situation, whatever that may be.




Table of Contents

What is Caretaker Burnout?

Five Root Causes of Caretaker Burnout and how to alleviate them

1. Being Unconnected to Your Body's Warning Signs

~ Solution: Learn how to tap into your body's subtle signs

2. Conditioning of Being a Caretaker at a Young Age

~ Solution: Let go of control and allow yourself to ask for help

3. Codependency

~ Solution: Reprogram Codependency, Establish Boundaries

4. Lack of Self-Love

~ Solution: Get to know what self-love is and slowly introduce acts of self-love into your routine

5. Underactive root chakra

~ Solution: Reprogram Self-Worth relating to Productivity and take action in healing your root chakra

Wrapping Up


What is Caretaker Burnout?

Women often wear many hats in their day-to-day lives whether they are mothers, wives, daughters, or responsible for the well-being of another living being. They often play caretaker roles, taking on the emotional burdens of the individuals they are caring for.


Multi-tasking is one of the main traits women have had to accomplish to feel they can get everything done in a day, often overloading themselves and giving from an "empty cup". This can lead to feeling drained and exhausted down to the soul level and feeling like there is nothing left to give. This takes a toll mentally, emotionally, and even physically.


Physical fatigue from stress overload, absorbing others' traumas, as well as any possible expectations, is a serious thing to manage and keep under control to keep you healthy and thriving.


woman sitting on a beach with her knees bent and her arms folded, resting on her knees. Her head is down, resting on the folded arms.

Five Root Causes of Caretaker Burnout and how to alleviate them

Depending on your personal experience, societal programming, upbringing, and unique lifestyle, caretaker burnout can have several different personal causes.


These causes often have interconnected roots deep in how you were raised, childhood household responsibilities, or the ways that love was present (or not present) in the household. This can often affect the ways that you can receive or ask for help, or even be able to recognize that you need help.


Sometimes these stem from adulthood if you have experienced non-reciprocal partner relationships or friendships in your life. With these types of relationships, boundaries can be forgotten or overstepped just so you can feel good enough for someone else.


They may also stem from the programming of society around the responsibilities of what women should be able to achieve and their ability to "do it with a smile".


Before we get into it, know that each of these causes has solutions that take more effort and determination to see to full completion than just reading this article.


This is more of a stepping-stone to understanding yourself more in the face of burnout, the reasons behind why you do things, and how to move toward more balance in your life.


Now, let's begin.





1. Being Unconnected to Your Body's Warning Signs


First, I want to talk about your body.


Some of us can only tell a warning sign when our bodies are near a breaking point. This is sometimes a sign of being stuck in your sympathetic nervous system, which is the system in our bodies that keeps us safe from danger by kicking into overdrive.


Many people nowadays live in this state and don't know it because we live in a continuous cycle of high stress even though physical danger may not be present.


Signs of an overactive sympathetic nervous system are anxiety, racing heart or heart palpitations, increased sweating and body temperature, and high blood pressure.


a green animated woman in full lotus position and her hands palms up on her knees. The seven chakra colors are above her chakra points on her body.

Possible Solution:

Learn how to tap into your body's subtle signs

Your body is always communicating with you, you just have to listen.


Our bodies are comprised of seven main energy centers, or Chakras, that work like individual brains. They have their characteristics and tale-tale signs of being out of balance.


By tapping into the subtle energies and noticing when your body is "off", you start to create a relationship with your body.


Your body will in turn communicate with you even more and you will be able to pick up signs of exhaustion or fatigue long before burnout.



Exercise: Awareness Meditation


The following meditation is to help you become more aware of how to tap into your body's subtle messages.


When you focus your attention on each body part, become aware of the body part as if it is the only part of your body that exists. Get to know it, ask it questions like, "How do you feel? What can I do for you right now? Is there anything I need to know?"


Listen quietly and take in any information you receive with an open heart.

(This is also a self-love practice you can use in the following sections.)


1. Sit or lie in a comfortable position and close your eyes.


2. Take a deep belly breath, allowing your abdomen to expand first and then your chest as you inhale. On exhale, shape your mouth like you are blowing out of a straw, and exhale slowly. Keep this breath up for the duration of this exercise. (This breathing soothes the sympathetic nervous system and relaxes you into a parasympathetic state, which is where you want to be for balance and allows your body to rest.)


3. Focus your attention on your body as a whole. What do you sense or feel? What is your mood? How does it feel to breathe this way?


4. Take another deep belly breath and move your attention to your feet. What do you sense and feel here? Take a moment to get to know your feet and ask what they need.


5. Move your awareness slowly up your body asking each area and body part questions.


6. When you get to your heart space, place your hands on your heart and ask, "What wisdom do you have for me today? How can I love myself more today?" Listen and allow any subtle information to come to you without judgment.


7. Moving up to your shoulders, allow them to drop and relax. Mentally put your burdens down beside you as if they were all held in a backpack that you've been carrying. Feel the weight of them lift off for a little while. Breathe into this freedom. Ask your questions.


8. Now, relax the muscles in your face for a moment, closing your mouth as you breathe and removing your tongue from the roof of your mouth. Feel your brain relax and become at ease. Stay in this relaxed state for as long as you need.


9. When you are ready to come out of the meditation, wiggle your fingers and toes and slowly open your eyes. Give yourself some time to come back to reality before getting up.


Do this practice often to help you grow the relationship you have with your body. This will also enhance your feelings of self-love and help you to make decisions based on what you need in your day-to-day life.


A little girl with brunette hair spoon feeding her baby sister in a highchair with homemade baby food

2. Conditioning of Being a Caretaker at a Young Age


The second, most noticeable cause of the overwhelming or sometimes heavy feeling of being responsible for another living being as an adult is the conditioning from a young age that you were expected to be responsible for someone other than yourself.


Whether that be your siblings, a pet, or your parents for any reason, this can leave scars on a young girl's heart with that sense of responsibility.


The implications of that kind of stress can create a hyper-sensitivity to others' needs over your own. If a child doesn't get the chance to be asked what they need and is constantly making sure other people are taken care of, this can create hyper-independence. This stems from not having a proper support system in place to make that child feel seen or taken care of.


Hyper-independence can lead to not being able to ask others for help when it's necessary, or they even need help because they try to figure everything out within their resources, exhausting every solution.


If that child doesn't learn how to accept and ask for help, this can lead to adulthood as an individual who takes on too many responsibilities and tries to be the "problem solver" for everything and everyone's problems.


Hyper-independence may not stem from childhood at all, but rather the need to take on a lot as an adult or not having a proper support system as you were developing into an adult or throughout your experience as an adult. This creates the same outcomes in human behavior.


woman sitting against a wall with her hands together at her face

Possible Solution:

Let go of control and allow yourself to ask for help.

Now, when I bring up these solutions, I understand and know from experience that these are not simple solutions. However, they are necessary to create balance in your life.


Ask yourself, "What in my life right now feels overwhelming? What is stressing me out?" These are the areas you may need to ask someone else to assist you. You may just need someone to talk to for advice on another way to approach the situation or for emotional support.


Asking for help is not easy for individuals who experience hyper-independence so maybe just start by talking with someone you trust about your situation first. Slowly warm up to receiving help. The Awareness Meditation above can help you understand more about yourself and notice the signals of when you do need help.


3. Codependency

Please seek professional help if you feel as if you are in danger or need to talk to someone about codependency.


Codependency often happens when a person is reliant on someone else for their physical or emotional needs which leads to unhealthy attachments. This is most times associated with a partner who has an addiction or is manipulative in some way.


The above segment of being conditioned to be a caretaker at a young age can stem from a codependent household where you had to put their needs above your own. This can also stem from relationships as an adult.


Symptoms of codependency include struggling to ask for help, not paying attention to your own needs, identity issues, low self-esteem, obsessively trying to solve others' problems (to receive love or acknowledgment), enabling toxic or addictive behaviors, perfectionism, self-critical language or behaviors, and trying to rescue others from their problems or pain.


Possible Solution:

Reprogram Codependency, Establish Boundaries

If you are experiencing caretaker burnout due to a codependent situation, it is important to first be honest with yourself and come to terms with your situation.


Practicing self-love, no matter how small can slowly help you grow your confidence and self-esteem. Please know that every beautiful human being deserves to be treated with kindness and love. We must also show ourselves kindness and love even when we don't yet feel like we love ourselves.


It takes a lot of patience, determination, and compassion for yourself in the process of replacing codependent behaviors with ones that will help you get out of your situation. It's okay if at first, it feels scary and uncomfortable, it takes a lot of practice. Remember to be gentle with yourself if you fall back into old habits, it's about progress and not perfection.


It is important to begin establishing boundaries and be consistent with your boundaries. Again, don't beat yourself up if you fall back a little or if it makes you feel guilty or uncomfortable. This is very normal.


Be aware if the other person is not used to you setting boundaries, it will be a shock to them at first. Do your best to express what you need and ask them for support in it. If you are ever in a situation where you feel unsafe, please leave and call the proper authorities.


If you are in a manipulative relationship and if you set your boundaries and they are ignored or pushed until you give in constantly, please be honest with yourself if this is healthy for you and reach out to someone you trust to help support you in this situation.


"self care isn't selfish" written on a napkin with a leaf on one side and a mug of coffee on the other

Exercise: Get to know yourself a little better


This is a journaling exercise with questions that will help you get to know yourself a little better. It is safe to be you and for you to have something for yourself. It isn't selfish, it is necessary.


Note: It is so important to judge your answers. Your inner critic isn't allowed at this party!


1. When I was young, did I have a favorite hobby? What kind of hobby would interest me today? Is it the same one?


2. What makes me feel comforted? How can I comfort myself when I feel upset in my current reality? (This must be a healthy outlet such as a favorite hobby or pastime. Avoid emotional eating, drinking alcohol, smoking, etc.)


3. What are some traits that I've picked up in my life that I am proud of? What are some traits that I would like to work on? (Practice self-compassion here)


4. Where is my favorite place to be? Why is it my favorite place? (Take a moment to close your eyes and feel and see yourself there. This is a practice you can do at any time.)


5. What are some fun things that I have wanted to do that I haven't let myself do because of my current reality? (Schedule at least one of them for yourself to do as soon as possible and stick to it. You deserve to do something fun! It can be something simple that doesn't cost anything or very much.)


a woman in a bamboo forest facing away from the camera, her hands are held up in a heart shape above her head

4. Lack of Self-Love

There are many reasons why a lack of self-love might be evident. Many women have no idea how to love themselves due to upbringing, ideals of women in society, traumas, and other experiences in their lives.


The lack of self-love can make you act out in codependent behaviors even if it is unintentional. It stems from needing external validation to feel loved, to feel needed, to feel like you are enough.


Not getting these external validations may lead to you not respecting your own physical, emotional, or emotional boundaries or needs when it comes to the needs of others.


Until you give yourself internally what you seek externally, you will always feel empty, always searching for your next external validation fix. It can be an addiction if you are not careful.


Most women have very critical internal voices that tell them things they would never say to someone else, yet they say it to themselves repeatedly.


Just know that baby girl you deserve so much better from yourself!


Possible Solution:

Get to know what self-love is and slowly introduce acts of self-love into your routine

What is self-love?

Self-love is the act of cultivating gentleness, kindness, and compassion toward yourself regardless of any situation or circumstance.


Most women have never been taught how to love themselves. Society is a b*tch when it comes to learning what a woman should and shouldn't be. It'll leave your head spinning trying to figure out the perfect "code" to be a woman and still feel like you're not enough.


This, my dear, is because it isn't about all the external chatter, it's about YOU learning to build yourself up from the inside out.


There is a workbook I bought on Amazon recently that has such good insight into self-love and how to move through it interactively. It is called Self-Love Workbook For Women: Release Self Doubt, Build Self-Compassion, and Embrace Who You Are by Megan Logan, MSW, LCSW (this external link is not an affiliate link, I just wanted you to be able to access it here). It's an inexpensive way to begin your self-love journey right away!


Other ways to work on self-love include:

  • Journaling and being reflective on yourself, the experiences you've had in your life, as well as your current experiences.

  • Challenging your inner critic by saying, "No, I am worthy of this!" (This takes a lot of practice, patience, and determination.)

  • Sitting in nature on a pretty day and letting your soul take a big drink of peace and rest.

  • saying self-esteem-boosting affirmations to yourself in the mirror (if you can't look at yourself and say them at first, it's okay. Start slowly by saying them to yourself throughout the day.)

  • hugging and holding yourself.

  • eating nourishing foods that make your body feel good afterward.

  • reading a book, painting, writing, taking a walk, etc.


There are lots of ways to participate in acts of self-love. The key here is to start somewhere that feels good to you, no matter how small.



woman hugging herself, there are trees in the background

Exercise: See yourself as your inner child.


I wanted to add this exercise here because it is an exercise that has helped me on my healing journey.


  1. Begin by sitting or lying in a comfortable position. Close your eyes.

  2. Take three deep belly breaths like I showed you above.

  3. Now, imagine your inner child sitting or lying next to you and they place a small hand on you. You can feel the warmth of their essence, the pureness.

  4. Look into their eyes and say to them everything from your heart that you wish someone would have said to you then.

  5. When you are done, give them a big hug and feel their essence integrate into your body and within your cells. They are a part of you. They always have been. They always will be.

  6. Now, open your eyes and hug yourself for as long as you need.

Remember that when talking and speaking to yourself, you are speaking to your inner child. Please understand how crucial this is to your self-esteem and your growth in self-love.


5. Underactive Root Chakra

The root chakra chakra is the first subtle energy center in the body. It resides at the base of the spine and functions at an animalistic survival frequency. This is the energy center that functions to keep you safe and healthy, moving vital energy up from the earth and regulating your immune system, helping us to stay focused and grounded in our day-to-day lives.


The root chakra is associated with the adrenal glands which produce cortisol and sex hormones, and regulate metabolic rates, blood pressure inflammation, immune system responses, as well as the body's stress responses (fight/flight/freeze) that communicate with the nervous system.


When the stress response is active for long periods and cortisol is high, it can create dysregulation in the body's systems, resulting in an out-of-balance root chakra.


This is where you store feelings of inner security and self-worth starting from a young child. This is where conditioning around lack of love, money, support, and abuse presents itself as emotional reactions such as despair, guilt, blame, rejection, resentment, and anger. This center holds your deepest fears, insecurities, and emotions.


The wounds relating to this chakra include:

  • attachment and abandonment wounds

  • not being able to set and keep boundaries

  • issues with trusting yourself and others

  • not being enough

  • not having enough physical love growing up

  • scarcity and lack, of money wounds

  • fear of physical safety

  • Not having enough grounding activities during childhood - ungroundedness

  • generational traumas, cycles, belief systems, and ways of being

  • past life karma and fears

Symptoms of under-activity in the root chakra include:

  • emotionally neediness and self-destructive behaviors.

  • low self-esteem and lack of self-love often give and give to others even after they are drained and energetically empty.

  • compromised sense of personal responsibility, easily taken advantage of.

  • lack of ability to nurture oneself with proper nutrition or not knowing how to care for oneself.

  • Unfocused, spaciness, apathy, passiveness, disassociation from the body.

  • fearful, anxious, and poor self-discipline.

  • severe weight loss or anemia.

  • Addiction issues

Manifested physical symptoms of an unbalanced root chakra may include:

  • Skeletal-related issues, issues with feet, ankles, or knees. (sciatica)

  • lower back pain, chronic fatigue, or fibromyalgia (possibly due to long periods of having an over-active nervous system)

  • skin issues

  • blood issues such as anemia

  • constipation or hemorrhoids

  • sexual dysfunction

Okay, okay, I know what you're thinking. Why didn't she just mention the root chakra to begin with?


I did that on purpose because each root cause of burnout has a unique solution. But each one stems from the ultimate cause: an underactive root chakra.



Tree Roots

Possible Solution:

Reprogram Self-Worth relating to Productivity and take action in healing your root chakra


Reprogramming self-worth relating to productivity is the first step you can take to healing your root chakra.


Society has brought us up to work our asses off for the bare minimum and we've gotten used to it. On top of that, it's expected.


People judge you on the drop of a dime for things that they themselves can't even "get right." No one is perfect. And that includes you.


The world we live in is a giant rock floating in the middle of space. A universal space that has no care in the world about how many dishes you washed or how much work you feel like you got done today.


A saying I like by the Dali Lama is, "We are human beings, not human doings."


We must be gentler with ourselves around productivity especially since it is one of the main driving forces in "not being enough because I'm not doing enough" which causes us to drain ourselves and forget about the things we need. That self-deprecating fear rules the lives of many women and men for that matter.


How do I reprogram how I view productivity?

I am going to say again what the main theme of this blog seems to be: self-love. Self-love is the secret to healing so many things especially when you're in the process of reprogramming anything.


It's important to start slow and be diligent in challenging your inner voice. Also, challenge the outer voices around you too. It's okay to have a different opinion than someone and maybe they'll also learn that they don't need to live their lives through what other people say they should.


Other ways to heal your root chakra may include:


Diet

  • eating red fruits and vegetables (cherries, cranberries, apples, strawberries, red peppers, tomatoes, etc)

  • eating root vegetables (beets, sweet potato, turnips, radish, onion, leeks, etc)

  • eating protein-rich foods (lean meats, butter, cheese, eggs, yogurt, beans, lentils, hummus, nuts, nut butter, etc)

  • drinking herbal teas (dandelion root, sage, ginger, elderflower)

Affirmations

  • I AM.

  • I am grounded, safe, and secure.

  • I am stable, strong, and healthy.

  • I am eternally safe and secure.

  • I have the courage to change in ways that support my growth.

  • I feel safe in setting boundaries and standing up for myself.

  • I release any fears and ask the light to fill all the spaces.

  • My needs are always met.

  • I am enough.

  • I am enough just as I am.

  • It is safe to love myself.

  • It is safe to give myself what I need.

Crystals

  • red jasper

  • red carnelian

  • red tiger's eye

  • smokey quartz

  • garnet

  • ruby

  • rhodonite

  • tourmaline

  • bloodstone

  • shungite

  • black obsidian

  • mahogany obsidian

  • onyx

  • hematite

Shadow work journaling questions

  • When my body feels depleted, what can I do to nourish and rejuvenate my mind, body, and spirit?

  • Do I believe in myself and my successes? Why or why not? How can I strengthen the belief I have in myself and treat myself more like a friend? (Hint: Self-love)

  • Who is my truest most authentic self? Do I feel safe to be this person in my environment? Why or why not?

  • What makes me feel safe? What makes me feel unsafe?

  • What are my needs and wants? Do I feel worthy of them?

  • Do others respect my boundaries? Am I able to keep the boundaries I set with others? Do I respect my own boundaries?

  • What happens if/when my boundaries are crossed? How do I deal with people who don't respect my boundaries?

  • What are my limits and how often do I push myself past these limits?

  • How can I create a safe, secure, and well-supported internal world for myself?

Meditations

  • Grounding in nature, taking nature walks barefoot (earthing), touching a tree, gardening, playing, or sitting outside, listening to nature sounds day or night.

  • Visualizing a healthy glowing red ball of fully circulating energy at the base of your spine.

  • Visualizing energetic roots growing from the base of your spine as you grow and expand like a tree.

  • Listen to frequency music: 396 Hz for letting go, and ridding deep trauma, fear, and guilt. 265 Hz for root chakra healing.


I highly recommend signing up for the FREE E-Book below so you can refer back to all of this information along your self-love and inner healing journey.




Wrapping Up

Today, we dove deep into five different root causes of caretaker burnout, what causes it, and why we act the way we do. I also discussed five solutions for each root cause and even sprinkled in some exercises for you to try out.


If there's only one thing from this that you take with you, remember that you deserve to love yourself. Being your best friend will help you achieve many things outside of overcoming caretaker burnout.


If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment or contact me here on the website or by email at mistysky@sacredearthacademy.com.


 

About the Author

Author, Misty Sky standing on top of a mountain with the mountain range view behind her. She is holding up her hand in a peace sign and smiling

Misty Sky is the owner and founder of Sacred Earth Academy. Her mission is to help women tap into their innate soul wisdom to unlock their purpose in life; her goal is to help women into the next steps of success that are aligned with their souls. Through her writing and teachings, she wishes to help raise the frequency of the collective consciousness and bring awareness and understanding to those who are ready to hear it.

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