Even when you're taking care of others, it's important for you to continue to care for yourself. But this isn't natural for most caregivers. Typically, they are so busy caring for others that they put their own needs on the back burner.
However, self-care is not selfish! The stress of caregiving can affect your health, leading to anxiety, depression, and even poor physical health. But by caring for yourself, you can help reduce stress and actually be a better caregiver. Here are some simple ways that you can practice self-care.
Take a Break
Caring for a relative can become a full-time or even round-the-clock job. It may seem like you never have a break. But all caregivers need time to themselves. Stepping back and letting someone else assume the role is perfectly fine and healthy.
Ask another family member or trusted friend to help with some of the responsibilities to give you a break. Maybe someone can take over meals this week or take your loved one on a walk so you get a few minutes alone. Focusing on yourself for 30 minutes each day will make a difference in your mental and physical state.
If there aren't any friends or family members to help you, you may want to consider respite care. This service allows a professional caregiver to come take care of your loved one so you can get time off.
Being a caregiver is very stressful. Enduring this stress over a long period of time can lead to burnout. Additionally, many family caregivers have other people they worry about too — their own kids, a partner, friends, etc. All of these competing responsibilities can take a toll on your mental health.
As you pour your time and energy into others, it's important that you do activities to help you manage stress. After all, you can't serve from an empty vessel.
Do something everyday that you enjoy and that can help you manage stress levels. Here are some ideas:
- Take a bath
- Read a book
- Watch a funny TV show
- Bake something
- Enjoy a tasty treat
By doing your favorite activities, you can manage stress levels so that you can be better prepared to serve others.
There are many other individuals just like you who are trying to care for their loved ones while also balancing their physical and emotional health. By meeting with other family caregivers, you can find a support network to help you navigate the challenges you will face.
While it might be difficult to open up at first, relying on your support network can help you manage daily stresses.
RELATED CONTENT: Channels Where Family Caregivers Can Find Support
Exercise can help you feel better physically and mentally. Caregiving can be physically demanding, so exercise can help you tone and strengthen muscles to meet daily challenges. It also relieves stress and can help you unwind after a long week. It can help you get a better night's sleep, too.
Experts recommend about 30 minutes of exercise a day. If you aren't quite sure how to manage that, try doing short bursts of physical activity at a time. For example, go on a short walk, do 5 minutes of arm circles, or hold a plank for a few minutes.
Eating healthy is so important for your overall well-being. When you've had a busy day, it might seem easy to grab fast food or to just skip a meal. However, choosing healthy options throughout the day helps you feel good and is the better choice long term.
Nutrient-dense foods, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can also help improve your mental clarity, promote strong muscles, maintain gut health, give you energy, and more. So, instead of reaching for a bag of potato chips as your snack, try a handful of carrot sticks instead.
If you're finding it difficult to eat healthy while working, try meal preparation. This can allow you to prepare meals in batches that you can enjoy throughout the week.
Get a Good Night's Sleep
Nothing can take the place of a full night's sleep. Sleeping well can help you feel energized, process emotions, and even lower your risk of serious health conditions. Before going to bed, implement a relaxing nighttime routine to help you unwind.
Research shows that most adults need to sleep at least 7 hours each night. If this isn't an option, try to take a short nap during the day.
RELATED CONTENT: 6 Tips to Get Better Sleep
Be Kind to Yourself
If you've had a rough day, it is too easy to be critical of yourself and your ability to care for your loved one. However, this isn't healthy. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge the challenges you face as a caregiver. Avoid self-criticism and practice self-compassion by giving yourself credit for the work you do.
Instead of focusing on the bad, highlight the things that you did well during the day and practice gratitude. This simple shift in mindset can help you be more optimistic about your caregiving responsibilities.
Caregivers work tirelessly to help others, and too often, they forget about themselves. But spending time on self-care allows you to be better equipped to provide care for others. We hope that these tips can help you recharge.
If you do need a longer break, reach out to your local Caring team. We would be more than happy to provide respite services so you can get the time off that you deserve.