Maintaining your health and wellness as a caregiverMonday 9 November 2020 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
Those who spend a lot of time caring for others often forget to take care of themselves. But self-care is one of the most important things a caregiver can do. Staying healthy both physically and mentally means you will be better equipped to take care of someone else. Foregoing your health while you care for a family member while working, raising kids and more can take a toll. Not taking the time for self-care can lead to an increased risk for:
- Poor eating habits
- Lack of exercise
- Trouble concentrating
1. Recognize the warning signs
Even if you’re a very resilient person, you still need to balance your responsibilities of caring for someone with self-care. Having too many tasks as a caregiver can become a major cause of stress. Too much stress can affect your psychological and physical health. It can lead to depression or anxiety, which can cause you to skip sleep or exercise, and eat poorly. This can then spiral into more serious, physical health problems. If you start to experience symptoms, like feeling down or having trouble sleeping, you should take action. Don't wait until you get overwhelmed. To head off these health concerns and maintain wellness, you should take proactive steps to stay healthy. Here are some tips that can help.
2. Don’t skip meals
Avoiding food can affect your body's overall health. You'll have a harder time paying attention, organizing your thoughts, and understanding information, likely due to low blood sugar. You may also experience mood changes. To prevent this, eat healthy meals and snacks. Avoid fast foods. Healthy eating will give you more energy and reduce your risk of illness.
3. Stay physically active
Engage in activities that will make you feel healthy. Exercise has been shown to improve your mood and decrease feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress. Exercise can increase the production of endorphins, which help produce positive feelings. People who are physically active also improve their sleep quality and feel more alert during the day.
Ask people to help you
It’s okay to get some help so you can take a break once in a while. When you notice that your caregiving is affecting your life, it’s important to ask for help. There is a common misconception that asking for help as a caregiver is a sign of weakness or inadequacy. But asking for help when you need it doesn't mean you can't handle the responsibility or you don't care enough. Asking for help shows that you understand the value in maintaining your well-being; how you feel mentally and physically affects the care you provide for someone else. Ask your friends and family members to run errands for you or look after your loved one, so you can have some personal time. Try coming up with a list of ways that others can assist you, to give your helpers a choice on what they can do to help.
4. Consider professional caregiving help
Admitting how much you can take on and what jobs are better suited to professionals can be difficult. However, the quality of care for your loved one and your self-care will suffer tremendously if you try and take too much on. There is no shame in getting help from home care services. Home care is designed to help clients based on their personal needs. Even if you just get help with caregiving once a week, it could take a lot of stress off your back.
5. Set goals for yourself
To help prevent being overwhelmed, it’s a good idea to plan. Prioritize your caregiving tasks and break them into small steps that you can schedule daily. Making a list, or calendar, of tasks will ensure you don’t forget anything and you can complete them in a reasonable amount of time. You’ll also establish a routine. Be sure to build in personal time as well.
6. Connect with others for support
Your community will likely have many caregiving resources. You may find classes that focus on coping with caregiving or services such as transportation, housekeeping, and meal delivery that can make your life a little less hectic. You should also consider seeking support from others through:
People in support groups understand what you’re going through. Connecting with others in similar situations is a great way to get validation and encouragement, find meaningful friendships, and discover new strategies for caregiving.
You aren’t alone. Make time to connect with positive family members and friends who support you.
7. See your doctor regularly
When you’re busy making sure you are caring for a loved one, it’s easy to forget your health. Be sure to schedule regular medical checkups with your doctor. Let him or her know you’re a caregiver and don’t hesitate to disclose any emotional or physical symptoms you’re experiencing. The more information your doctor knows about you and your lifestyle the better advice and treatment you’ll receive.