The Caregiver's Guide to Self-Care
Are you acting as a caregiver to a loved one? Maybe your elderly parent or a spouse or child that is battling a serious illness?
According to womenshealth.gov, 36% of Americans provided unpaid care to another adult with an illness or disability in 2012, and that number has almost certainly climbed as the baby boomer population continues to age.
Acting as a caregiver to another is definitely a labor of love, but it can also take a physical, mental and emotional toll on a person. When you focus all of your energy on the needs of other people, it is entirely too easy to put your own needs on the back burner.
Do You Have Caregiver Burnout?
Here are some of the most common signs of caregiver burnout:
- Uncharacteristic irritability and impatience
- Poor sleep
- Somatic symptoms, such as headaches and gastrointestinal distress
- Changes in appetite
- Turning to substances to self-medicate
- Lack of interest in friendships and hobbies
- Thoughts of harming oneself or the person being cared for
- Increased illness
- Anxiety and/or depression
With so many people relying on caregivers, it’s important that these people learn to take good care of themselves!
Here are some ways you can begin practicing self-care so you don’t experience burnout:
Get More Sleep
The quantity and quality of sleep you get each night will have a huge impact on how you feel physically, mentally and emotionally. Stress can make it hard for us to get good sleep, so don’t make it any harder.
Avoid caffeinated beverages after 2 pm as well as using any digital screens at night. The blue light emitted from these devices messes with our sleep cycle. You may also want to use room-darkening curtains to make your bedroom dark in the morning so you don’t awaken too early.
Get Plenty of Exercise
All of the stress, tension, and balled-up emotions need to go somewhere, or you’re likely to become sick yourself. Exercise is a great way to work all of this… “stuff” out of you. As a bonus, your body releases endorphins after a good workout, and these chemicals give your mood a nice boost.
Your instinct may be to reach for sugary comfort foods but you need to stay healthy and strong. Opt for protein and healthy fats along with some organic produce.
Ask for Help
While everyone around you may refer to you as “superhuman,” the truth is, you’re just human, and you can’t handle everything by yourself ALL of the time. Ask people to help you provide care once or twice a week so that you may have a little bit of time for yourself.
Talk to Someone
If you are dealing with your own depression and anxiety, it’s important that you speak with someone who can offer coping strategies.
If you or someone you know is a caregiver that could use someone to talk to, please feel free to be in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.