Caregiver—Caring for Yourself
You may spend a large part of your days, and maybe even nights, helping care for a family member or friend. But there's one person you may not always take such good care of: yourself. Often, the responsibilities of caring for another come first. But making sure you are taken care of is important too. When you feel good, energized, and confident, the person you are caring for will benefit as well. Wondering where to begin? Here are 6 tips to help you get started.
1. Accept your feelings. Caregivers can experience many feelings, from guilt and sadness to anger and frustration. These feelings are very commonin fact, they're a way of letting you know how well you are coping. Take comfort in knowing that it's OK to feel this way sometimes. Instead of trying to hide or deny your feelings, try to accept them. Not only is it healthieryou may even feel better.
2. Listen to your body. It may sound simple, but listening to your body can be hard when you have other priorities to think about. Listening to your body includes:
Eating the right foods when you’re hungry
Instead of skipping meals, keep a variety of healthy snacks such as fruit, crackers, and trail mix handyat your desk, in your car, or in your pantry. Healthy snacking can help you avoid becoming extremely hungry and binge eating—consuming a large amount of food in a short period of time.
- Getting enough sleep
Exhaustion is one of the biggest problems caregivers can face. If caregiving keeps you up at night, try napping, if possible. Remember, every little bit helps.
- Getting regular exercise
Regular exercise can help boost your mood and fight depression. Try taking a brisk walk, riding a bicycle, or enjoying an aerobics class.
- Having routine checkups
Routine checkups can indicate how well you are taking care of yourself. They also can help you recognize any potential health risks. Plus, checkups are a great opportunity to talk to your health care professional about any health concerns you may have.
3. Stay informed. No one can possibly know all there is to know about caregiving. Simply understanding as much as you can about the health and treatment of the person in your care can help make things easier to manage. Consider attending workshops or joining support groups to find out how other caregivers are handling similar situations.
4. Seek emotional support. Caregivers can feel alone sometimes. But there are many other people who are going through the same thing you are and can offer understanding. It's important to surround yourself with people who can lend a helping hand, an ear to listen, or a shoulder to cry on. Whether it's a support group, friends, or family, having emotional support can help make each day a little easier.
5. Set limits. You have so much to take care of already. Sometimes it's OK to say no to requests or favors from others.
6. Ask for help. It may seem difficult or strange at first, but it's a good idea to learn to ask for help when you need it. You can start by:
Preparing a list of what needs to be done
Write down everything you may need help with, no matter how big or smallincluding cooking meals, running errands, or driving the person you are caring for to various appointments.
Considering a person's interests and abilities
Consider a person’s talents or interests when asking for help. For example, someone who enjoys cooking would be a good person to ask for help with preparing meals. A “morning person” would be an ideal choice for driving the person in your care to early appointments.
Picking the best time to ask
Timing is everything. If the person you are about to ask for help seems stressed or upset, you may want to ask someone else, or ask him or her at a later time.
Asking more than 1 person for help
Instead of asking for many things from 1 person, ask a few people each to do 1 thing. This way, more people can get involved and feel like they are making a difference.
Being prepared for "no"
Try not to take it personally if people are not able to help. Instead, ask again at a later time or consider finding someone else.
Making specific requests
Using phrases like "I was wondering if..." or "It's only a thought but..." make it sound as if the request is not that important to you. Instead, make specific requests, such as "I have to go food shopping on Sunday. Can you please keep Mom company from noon to 1:00?"
It's easy to say you will care for yourself. But that can be hard to do. These tips can help serve as your guide. It may take some time at first, but soon you can be on your way to a healthier you. And you can feel confident in caring for another, knowing that you have also taken care of yourself.