So far, we’ve discussed the stress and burnout you may feel as a caregiver and explored some strategies to find balance in caregiving. Now we want to take a moment to focus on you, caregiver! Being a caregiver can be overwhelming, and it’s vital to make space for your own health and happiness.
Take Time for Your Own Health
Although you’re invested in your loved one’s health, it’s also important to not make your situation worse with avoidable health woes.
Don’t forget your doctor visits. It’s easy to forget about your own health when you’re busy with a loved one’s care. Don’t skip check-ups or medical appointments. You need to be healthy in order to take good care of your family member.
Exercise. When you’re stressed and tired, you probably would prefer napping vs. working out. But if you exercise, you’ll feel better afterwards. Exercise is a powerful stress reliever and mood enhancer. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes on most days—break it up into three 10-minute sessions if that’s easier. Regular exercise will help boost your energy level and fight fatigue.
Meditate and/or Pray. A daily relaxation, visualization or meditation practice can help you relieve stress and boost feelings of joy and well-being. Try yoga, deep breathing, or mindfulness meditation. Even a few minutes in the middle of an overwhelming day can help you feel more centered. If you believe in a higher power, take a few moments to pray and connect.
Eat well. Fuel your body with fresh fruit, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats such as fish, nuts, and olive oil.
Limit sugar, caffeine and alcohol. These may feel and taste good in the short run, but will quickly crash you.
Rest up. Most people need more sleep than they think they do—8 hours is the norm. When you get less, your mood, energy, productivity, and ability to handle stress will suffer.
Take Time to Refresh and Recharge
As a busy caregiver, leisure time may seem like a pipedream. But it’s crucial to give yourself permission to rest and to do things that you enjoy on a daily basis. When you replenish yourself, you’ll have more to give to others.
Stay connected. Don’t let your friendships get lost in the shuffle of your demanding schedule. These relationships will help sustain you and brighten your outlook. If it’s difficult to leave the house, invite friends over to visit with you over coffee, drinks, or dinner.
Pursue joy. Make regular time for things that bring you happiness, whether it’s reading, gardening, playing an instrument, listening to music, or watching the game.
Up your focus with down time. If you’re not regularly taking time-off to de-stress and recharge your batteries, you’ll end up getting less done in the long run. Paradoxically, a break will likely make you feel more energetic and focused, so you’ll quickly make up for your down time.
Pamper yourself. Small luxuries can go a long way. Light candles and take a long bath. Ask your spouse for a back rub. Get a manicure. Buy fresh flowers for your home. Do something that makes you feel special.
Make yourself laugh. Laughter is an excellent antidote to stress—and a little goes a long way. Read a funny book, watch a your favorite comedian or sitcom, or call a friend who makes you laugh.
Get outside. Seek out friends, family, and respite care providers to step in with caregiving so you can have some time away from the home.
You have a tough job, caregiver, but we know that you know how rewarding it can be. Consider downloading our free e-book for caregivers to use yourself or give to another caregiver in your life. We’ll be blogging again soon about more resources. Until next time!