As tempting as it is to place all of your focus on the needs of your loved ones, they need you to take care of yourself, first.That may sound odd when the needs of others take so much of our time. But much like the role of motherhood teaches us, we cannot provide the valuable care needed by those who depend on us if we lack personal strength. “An estimated 43.5 million adults in the United States have provided unpaid care to an adult or a child in the prior 12 months,” says a 2015 survey by caregiving.org.
The sacrifices every caregiver makes are important, but it’s equally important that they take time to care for themselves. These six areas will provide the strength needed to care for others while you care for yourself.
- Schedule exercise
Whether it’s a casual walk, a bicycle ride to the park, or participating in a gym class, scheduling regular exercise can give you much-needed energy for the rest of the day. Your mind and body will thank you as you set aside this time each day.
It seems you are always on the go. So, grabbing a bite to eat here and there may work for those particularly hectic days, but it cannot be your standard practice at mealtime. A healthy diet provides the fuel needed to keep your immune system and energy up. When you prepare meals for your loved one, try making healthy meals for yourself at the same time. Eating healthy, combined with proper hydration, is another tip that can benefit both your mind and body. Recognize that the health of both you and the loved one you care for should be a priority.
- Get some sleep
As a caregiver, you have routines for medications, bathing, meals, and appointments. Getting a good night’s sleep should be one of those routines. Everything is harder when you’re tired—especially caring for another person. A bedtime routine will ensure you get at least seven hours of sleep per night. Not only will your body feel better, but you’ll also feel more capable and productive throughout the day.
Some days are better than others. But when your days become particularly hard, and you feel overwhelmed, it’s time to pay attention to your mental health. Depression and anxiety can severely impact your personal well-being and caregiving capabilities. It may be a matter of changing your lifestyle, setting boundaries, or sharing responsibilities with family members. It’s important to reach out to someone if you experience feelings of severe stress, hopelessness, or self-loathing.
- Personal hygiene
As caregivers, we make sure our loved ones see the dentist, bathe regularly, eat healthy meals, exercise, even have their hair done from time to time. But when was the last time you focused that attention on yourself? Remember to treat your health with the same level of concern, including scheduling regular dental appointments, haircuts, and annual check-ups. Maintaining these will help you have peace of mind for your health and wellness.
- Pamper yourself
Everybody needs a break sometimes. Pick a time once a week or so to treat yourself. It could be taking the afternoon off, going out to your favorite restaurant, or getting a massage. “Massage therapy is a popular form of care for our residents,” Corwin Lewis, executive director at Parke View Rehabilitation and Care Center said. “Massage encourages flexibility, reduces muscle tension or soreness and improves circulation.” These well-deserved pick-me-ups can help you relax and rejuvenate.
As you care for another, it’s important to care for yourself. Work with your loved one to design a schedule that allows you to implement some of these tips for a healthier, more fulfilling caregiver experience.