As a caregiver, your own health and well-being are just as important as the one in your care. The strain of caring for a loved one can take its toll on you, and you may sometimes feel like it won’t matter if you just get through today. But remember that you are doing this work for years and sometimes decades—and that’s a long time! You have to be healthy in order to care for your loved one well for the long haul. A great place to start is with some basic self-care practices.
Nearly half of all caregivers surveyed in a recent study by Genworth reported feeling as though their job made their personal health and well-being worse. Due to the selfless, isolating, and time-intensive requirements of the job, caregivers are more likely than the average person to experience burnout. Burnout can contribute to one or many of the following symptoms in caregivers:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty relaxing
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feelings of overwhelm
When you serve as a caregiver, your well-being is crucial to that of your loved one. If you fail to take proper care of yourself, you will eventually develop burnout and be unable to offer your elderly parent or family member the experienced and compassionate care they need and deserve. The following five tips will help you work self-care into your daily life and work routine so you can continue to show up as your best self for the ones who depend on you:
1. Be willing to ask for help
As a caregiver, it may sometimes feel like the world is resting on your shoulders, but you don’t have to conquer everything alone. Reach out to family, friends, and other people you trust to create a support system of individuals you can reach out to when the burden becomes too much to handle by yourself. If there isn’t anyone in your immediate network that would be available to help, consider asking your loved one’s doctor for additional resources.
2. Establish healthy personal habits
Neglecting your own physical and mental health is one of the surest ways to reach burnout as a caregiver. For all that you consistently pour into caring for your elderly loved one, you need to also make sure you’re investing back into yourself with healthy eating, exercise, and adequate sleep. Take time to meal prep nutritious meals and move your body on a daily basis.
3. Declutter your schedule
If you want to reduce your stress and improve your well-being, try clearing some things off your schedule. It can be easy to want to get a million things done and accidentally overbook your day, but sometimes taking things slow is the way to go. Instead of trying to jam in things to do back-to-back, consider putting less activities on the schedule every day and allowing more time to focus on what’s left.
4. Allow yourself to take breaks
No one can operate at 100% capacity 100% of the time. It is okay to need rest and take breaks when you need them.
A “break” can mean different things for different people–going on a walk, getting a massage, taking a nap, hanging out with friends, etc. Essentially, a break is whatever allows you to pause, decompress, and come back to caregiving feeling like a more relaxed and revitalized version of yourself. Although it may seem silly to schedule time for yourself instead of solely focusing on your responsibilities, doing so regularly will pay dividends for your well-being and allow you to enjoy greater longevity as a caregiver.
5. Stay connected with your community
Caregiving can be a socially isolating profession. In addition to the solo nature of the work, the level of responsibility and the amount of hours involved can also make it difficult to schedule time with friends and family off the job.
However, humans thrive when socially connected with others. In fact, it has been shown that individuals with active social lives have better mental and physical health, lower risks of dementia, and greater longevity than those without. To avoid burnout as a caregiver, making time to be with others is an absolute must. Whether it’s a weekly dinner with friends or joining a local walking group, finding time to socialize and connect with others in a way that feels good to you will improve your well-being as a caregiver.
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Never become so consumed with being a support for others that you forget to extend some of that same care to yourself. Remember that in order to do your best work for your loved one, you need to feel energized, fulfilled, and stable internally first. By taking the time to incorporate self-care into your routine, you can significantly improve how you feel throughout your days and coincidentally, how well you’re able to care for your loved one also. If you need assistance distributing the workload needed to provide proper care, a trusted senior home care provider can help.