Originally published by Claire Wentz
Everyone has different roles in life, and when you become the caregiver of a loved one who is sick or aging, that role opens up a whole new set of demands for you. With all of those responsibilities, many caregivers fall into the trap of putting their own needs last. You can prevent this from happening by working on these self-care goals now.
Maintain Your Health
When you have a loved one who isn’t well, it’s natural to feel like their health is your number one priority. But if you fail to care for your own health, you may end up burnt out and dealing with symptoms like fatigue, illness, depression and loss of sleep. One of the best ways to avoid this is to make sure you have your own health coverage and make medical appointments when you need them. If you have Medicare, it’s a good idea to get a supplemental plan so that you have complete coverage to pay for expenses like prescription drugs, dental and vision care. Check out Medicare resource guides, which help you navigate the different options and learn everything you need to know about the enrollment process.
Start Healthy Habits
While you’re adjusting to the role of being a caregiver, now is the time to start (or maintain) everyday habits that keep you healthy. Simple things like drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, and eating healthy meals are basic self-care goals for staying well. These things are simple, but they may be easier said than done when you’re stretched thin. Come up with some creative strategies now to make healthy habits easier to fit in. Women’s Health Magazine recommends planning meals at the beginning of each week — if you can, spend a little time prepping ahead.
Make Time for Hobbies
Along with habits that are good for your physical health, it’s just as important to care for your mental health. As a caregiver, you have to take time off from what you need to do and make time for things you want to do. Any time spent on hobbies is good for you, but it’s even better if your hobby has extra health benefits too. For example, taking a walk, a hike or jog is a great way to get some physical activity while being out in nature. Or if you like art, you may want to try art therapy. Try some of these art project ideas for stress relief as a way to distract your mind from worry.
Take a Break
We all spend so much of our time being busy, but when you have lots of responsibilities, it can be refreshing to spend some time where you aren’t trying to accomplish anything. Harvard Health Publishing recommends breath awareness and mind-body practices like yoga or meditation to help relax your mind and body. At other times, it’s good to take a break from caregiving to do something just for yourself. Not working toward a goal or anything that needs to be done – just simply treating yourself. This can be doing things we typically think of as self-care, such as taking a relaxing bath or having some at-home spa time. It can really be anything you do just for fun.
When you feel overwhelmed by all your to-dos, spending time with friends may feel like it’s just one more obligation. No matter how busy you are, though, time with friends spent laughing, catching up, and venting your feelings is necessary self-care. It’s common for caregivers to end up feeling isolated. Even when it requires a concerted effort, making time for friends is a powerful way to fight off isolation. You may also find comfort through a caregivers support group.
When the duties of caregiving weigh on you, the best thing you can do for your loved one is to continue caring for yourself too. Don’t push your own needs aside. The times when you’re extra busy, and strained emotionally, are when you need self-care the most.
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