Caregiving is a great responsibility and it can be emotionally and physically draining. Over 70% of caregivers report suffering in their non-caregiving job because of the caregiving role and 38% of caregivers consider the responsibility of caregiving highly stressful.
Here are some simple but important self-care tips that you can implement in your day so that you are more productive and present for your loved one.
1. Make Eating Well a Priority
Burnout is a common occurrence among caregivers, as the body lacks the necessary fuel to run. Proper diet, based on wholistic foods, is important in ensuring your body has the required nutrients adequately and consistently. Substitute sweets with healthy deserts like frozen cherries topped with honey and maybe some milk. Or banana with granola and toppings like honey, coconut oil, or plain yogurt.
Also, stay hydrated and avoid fast foods (just a reminder!) even when you are squeezed for time.
2. Avoid Sleep Deprivation
As a caregiver, it is important to ensure that you get quality sleep, which we know is often nearly impossible. Think of ways to delegate other family responsibilities and sleeping when your loved one sleeps.
When you have had enough sleep, your body will be ready for the day, and your mind will be rejuvenated so that you are able to be take care of your loved one better.
3. Get a Workout Regime
Working out is one of the ways of strengthening your body to do more without experiencing constant fatigue.
Sign up for a gym membership or get some simple workout equipment at home. Even as little as an hour a week at the gym, while remaining active through walks, hikes, and other physical activities during the rest of the week, might make a huge difference in your overall physique and in regulating hormonal, digestive, and other metabolic processes in your body.
We take upon us so much every day, emotionally and physically. Therefore, it is important to exercise your body in order to let go of and literally let it all out of our system. Supplying your body and brain with more oxygen will also reduce the stress hormones in your body.
4. Get some Social Support
It is wise to join social groups with other caregivers. Here, you will acquire some tips on caregiving and it will also prove therapeutic.
Having people who fully understand you are key to your mental and emotional well-being. Join local or online caregiver support groups and know they are there for you to benefit and learn from, and be able to grow stronger by having this community behind you.
5. Address Barriers to Self-Care
Maybe you are the kind of person who feels that prioritizing the needs of others is more honorable than caring for yourself. In caregiving (and overall), this is not all true. You most likely already know that if you fail to take care of yourself, you will not be able to care for your loved one. Or as Eleanor Brownn would put it: “Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve form an empty vessel.”
6. Make Breath Awareness a Routine
Make it your habit to have relaxation techniques such as breathing in and out deeply for as little as 10 minutes each day. This simple but powerful technique helps your mind to calm down and feel better about your role. You will feel so much better in so little time. The key is to inhale and hold your breath for 3 to 4 seconds and exhale for longer (5 to 7 seconds) and let all the stress, you have been bottling up, out.
7. Be Self-Compassionate
Loving yourself is important. Do not be overly harsh and criticize yourself for things that are not perfect. Have you ever throughout that perhaps the one thing that is keeping you from being happy, and is keeping you “stuck,” may just be your expectations of what it should be, instead of accepting what it is, appreciating everything you already have and have been given, and releasing self-pity and comparison in order to make better choices for the future?
Tap your back for the things that you have achieved, through caregiving and otherwise. Remember how incredible you actually are.
Self-talk warning: Would you say the thing you just said to yourself to your best friend? Probably not. Then why say it to yourself?!
8. Involve Other Family Members
Share the caregiving role with other family members and build a trustworthy support team. Avoid the obsession that they may not do it as well as it is supposed to be done. Keep perfectionism aside. And learn to ask. Most people who have not been a caregiver do not understand what you are going through and how much you need their help. Just because you could potentially do it all yourself, doesn’t mean you should. Asking for help might seem scary, but people often don’t know how much you need them until you tell them. What is one small task you could ask for help with today?
9. Outsource Once in a While
For your physical and emotional well-being, it is wise to hire a trained caregiver to look after your loved one as you attend to your non-caregiving roles or even rest. There are many local resources available, as well as software solutions, such as Care.com where you can find trained professionals in your area that might be able to help.
10. Set Smart Goals
Set achievable self-care goals that you’ll aspire to achieve. For example, when to go for checkups, when and how long to exercise, when to take a break, when to sleep, among others. Always remember that where focus goes, energy flows.
Set goals that will help you remain focused on yourself, so that you could enjoy a quality life even as you care for others.
11. Bonus tip: Reward Yourself
Give yourself your favorite treat, watch a movie you want to watch, listen to some music, allow yourself to have some fun (again?), and recognize how much you are capable of. And how much you’re doing and you have done. Try to plan the coming weeks and determine what in your life could be improved, delegated, or taken off your to do list.