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Self Care for Caregivers

Self Care for Caregivers

If you are a family caregiver, you’re under a lot of stress. You are probably middle-aged, caring for both parents and kids. That being said, I’ll keep this short because you probably don’t have much time to read a blog.

The Essentials

Eat healthy:

The basis of psychological health is often physical health. Also, though hits of caffeine and sugar may prop you up temporarily, you’re borrowing energy from the future. Better to take a more sustainable approach. This is a marathon not a sprint.

Green exercise:

Regular activity, even if it’s a walk around the block, benefits your mood, your metabolism, and your sleep. “Green exercise,” that is activities done outside, has been found to be more emotionally restorative then “working out” inside.

Don’t short yourself on ZZZ’s (but don’t overdo it):

Sleep can feel like a little bit of an indulgence, but it’s absolutely essential to keep your decision-making and compassion intact. A lack of sleep can also lead to weight gain, depressed immune function, and anxiety or depression.

On the other side of the spectrum, sometimes people will use sleep as a way to retreat from the stress of providing care. Better to find a trusted friend or counselor to help you cope through the difficulty.

Secure your own mask first:

You know when the flight attendant is talking about putting your own mask on before assisting others?  The same is true for your own health. When you are wrapped up in the work of caregiving is very easy to forget to manage your own high blood pressure or diabetes or health in general, effectively. The best way to take care of the people you love is often times by taking the best care of yourself.

Maximize your down time:

Often people will pick mindless rest activities like watching television or surfing YouTube videos only to find that they’re not particularly relaxed afterwards.  One study showed that the average emotional state that people experience while watching television was akin to mild depression. Get intimately acquainted with the best ways to recharge your own batteries. Do you recharge best by walking, visiting friends, reading a book? Prioritize those activities when you get a chance to rest. The ability to rest well is often times the key to surviving well.

Find what services you could use, and try them out before you need them:

A solid plan B allows you to feel more secure about the future. Think through on paper all the things you do for your loved one. If you became ill, how would they get done? What absolutely must be done, and what is just icing on the cake?

Think through who could help you, and for those things that are left, explore services available in your area. You may want to reach out to a homecare service before you actually need them. Ask if you can set up some trial visits to see how it works.  Then, if the unexpected happens, all you have to worry about is getting better. And who knows, you might even get a chance to take a break for yourself!