Key Takeaways

    • Even after a few months as a co-survivor, it can be overwhelming and maybe it’s time to switch the focus and prioritize yourself.
    • You can’t pour from an empty cup, so taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your loved one.
    • Follow our tips and come up with your own, write down your tool kit of self-care, and pick strategies on the regular!
    • Use your support, tell your loved one about what you’re doing for self-care, and celebrate it, because self-care is hard to fit in.
How do I avoid burnout?

Embarking on the journey of supporting a cardiac arrest survivor can be challenging and, at times, overwhelming. However, you don’t have to face it alone. We’ve compiled a list of practical strategies and insights from an experienced co-survivor. This list aims to help you maintain your well-being and prevent burnout after caregiving for a few months. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup, so take care of yourself once the acute phase of the “fight or flight” response seems to be over. Focusing on you at this time point is just as important as taking care of your loved one.

Practice mindfulness

Taking a few moments each day to focus on your breath and be present in the moment can help you stay grounded and reduce stress. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or just sitting quietly and observing your thoughts. Find a technique that works for you, and make it a daily habit.

Develop healthy coping strategies

Identify healthy coping mechanisms that can help you manage stress and avoid burnout. Examples include journaling, talking to a friend or therapist, exercising, or engaging in a creative outlet like painting or knitting. Make a list of your favorite coping strategies and keep it handy for when you need a pick-me-up.

Plan mini vacations

You deserve a break! Plan regular mini vacations or weekend getaways to recharge your batteries. It doesn’t have to be extravagant; even a short trip to a nearby town or a staycation at a local hotel can provide a much-needed change of scenery. If taking time away isn’t feasible, try setting aside a few hours for a relaxing activity like a spa day or a leisurely walk in the park.

Prioritize self-care

Self-care is essential for maintaining your well-being as a co-survivor. Schedule regular “me time” to focus on your own needs and interests. This could include treating yourself to a massage, taking a yoga class, or simply enjoying a cup of tea and a good book. Remember, self-care isn’t selfish – it’s necessary for your well-being and your ability to care for your loved one.

Maintain participation in activities you enjoy

Don’t give up the activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. Whether it’s a hobby, social group, or volunteer work, staying engaged in activities you enjoy can help prevent burnout and keep you feeling connected to your own life. If you’re having trouble finding time for these activities, consider asking a friend or family member to step in and help with caregiving duties so you can have some time for yourself.

Ask for and accept help

It’s okay to ask for help even at this stage – in fact, it’s crucial for avoiding burnout. Reach out to friends, family, and community resources to share the caregiving load. You might be surprised at how many people are willing to lend a hand. Remember, it’s not a sign of weakness to accept help; it’s a sign of strength and wisdom.

Plan routine physical activity and avoid a sedentary life

Exercise is a fantastic stress reliever and can help boost your mood and energy levels. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most days of the week. Choose activities you enjoy, like walking, swimming, or dancing, so you’ll be more likely to stick with them. If you’re short on time, try breaking your exercise sessions into shorter 10-minute bursts throughout the day.

Stay connected with friends

Don’t let your caregiving duties completely consume your social life. Stay in touch with friends and make an effort to meet up regularly, even if it’s just for a quick coffee catchup. Friends can provide a valuable support system and help you feel less isolated in your caregiving role.

Set realistic goals and boundaries

It’s important to set realistic goals for yourself and your caregiving duties. You can’t do everything, and that’s okay. Learn to prioritize tasks, delegate when possible, and set boundaries to protect your own well-being. Remember, you are a co-survivor, not a superhero, so be gentle with yourself and recognize your limits.

Stay informed and educated

Empower yourself with knowledge about your loved one’s condition and the resources available to help you in your caregiving journey. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be to make informed decisions and advocate for your loved one. Join support groups, attend workshops, and stay up-to-date with the latest research and developments in cardiac care.

Celebrate small victories

Caring for a cardiac arrest survivor can be a long and challenging journey, but it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate the small victories along the way. Whether it’s a successful doctor’s appointment, a positive change in your loved one’s health, or even just managing to get through a particularly tough day, take a moment to recognize and appreciate your accomplishments.

Practice gratitude

Focusing on the positive aspects of your life can help improve your mental well-being and reduce stress. Make a habit of writing down or reflecting on at least three things you’re grateful for each day. This simple practice can help shift your mindset and remind you of the good things in life, even when times are tough.

Prioritize sleep and healthy eating

Taking care of yourself means getting enough sleep and eating a balanced diet. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and make an effort to eat nutritious meals that include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. Proper sleep and nutrition are essential for maintaining your physical and mental health as a co-survivor.

Find support from other co-survivors

Connecting with other co-survivors can provide a sense of camaraderie and support. Join a local or online support group, attend workshops or conferences, or simply reach out to other co-survivors you know. Sharing your experiences, challenges, and successes with others who understand can help you feel less isolated and provide valuable insight and encouragement.

Remember, taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your loved one. By incorporating these strategies and tips into your daily routine, you can avoid burnout and continue to provide the best possible care for your cardiac arrest survivor. You’re doing an amazing job – don’t forget to give yourself the care and compassion you deserve!

The impact of low self-care and the power of change

Research shows that neglecting self-care can lead to increased anxiety, depression, and reduced quality of life for co-survivors (Dionne-Odom, 2017). By prioritizing self-care, you can improve your well-being and become an even more capable co-survivor for your cardiac arrest survivor. Remember, change starts with you!

As a co-survivor of a cardiac arrest survivor, you have the strength and resilience to prioritize self-care and healthy living during this challenging time. By focusing on your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, you can make a significant difference in your life and the life of your loved one. You are an inspiration, and you have the power to make a positive impact. You’ve got this!


Dionne-Odom, J.N., Demark-Wahnefried, W., Taylor, R.A. et al. The self-care practices of family caregivers of persons with poor prognosis cancer: differences by varying levels of caregiver well-being and preparedness. Support Care Cancer 25, 2437–2444 (2017).

Thank You to Our Contributors

Matthew Douma & Jennifer Chap

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