Taking care of yourself is a valid goal that everyone should strive for. But if you are a caregiver, the physical and emotional demands of caring for a loved one with a serious illness can be exhausting, can impact your ability to care for yourself, and can sometimes leads to burnout.
Remember the old adage that “you cannot take care of someone else, if you are not taking care of yourself”. For this reason, it’s important to maintain your own health and well-being….. so you can provide the best possible care to others, while maintaining your own wellness. Because when you take care of yourself, it facilitates a pathway to wellness so you can maintain the strength needed to support the people you love.
Caregivers who pay attention to their own physical and emotional health are better able to handle the challenges of supporting someone with mental, physical, and intellectual concerns and disabilities.
Here are tips for handling some of the common challenges for caregivers:
- Take time for yourself and your own needs. Watch for signs of stress, such as impatience, loss of appetite or difficulty with sleep, concentration or memory. Pay attention to changes in your mood, a loss of interest in usual activities or an inability to accomplish usual tasks.
- Eat a well-balanced diet. Drink plenty of water every day.
- Exercise by taking short walks daily, or at least three times a week.
- Listen to guided relaxation recordings or relaxing music.
- Schedule short rest periods between activities. Make it a priority to get a good night’s sleep.
- Set limits for what you can do.
- Don’t overload your daily to-do list. Be realistic.
- Find a few hours several times a week for activities that you find meaningful and enjoyable.
- Let family members and friends help with household chores, meal preparation, childcare and shopping.
- Keep the lines of communication open among your loved one, you, your family and friends, and the health care team.
- Share your feelings with family members or other caregivers, or join a support group.
- Give yourself credit: The care you give does make a difference.
Learn more about how caregivers can take better care of themselves here.