Take Care of Yourself: Five Self-Care Tips for Caregivers
Providing care to another person can be stressful, challenging, rewarding, and so much more. Caregivers are responsible for the health and well-being of their children, parents, and elderly relatives. Sometimes being a caregiver is a choice, and sometimes it is a role that is taken on as the need arises.
Caregiving can be a 24/7 job. Caring for another person means meeting with doctors, understanding physical limitations, taking care of many daily emergencies, and wearing many different coats. As a caregiver, you can fulfil the roles of nurse, advocate, helper, assistant, along with having another job, taking care of your family, and seeing to your own personal needs.
Caregivers report high instances of emotional and physical burnout, as the responsibilities and stresses of this job are very high. Here are five self-care tips for caregivers to take notice of; remember, if you aren’t healthy yourself, you’ll have a difficult time taking care of others.
1. Find a Support Group
There are support groups geared towards caregivers that can provide a community of people who are also going through the same experiences you are. Support groups are a good way to engage with others and create a social circle with people who understand your situation.
Online and in-person groups allow you to share the challenges and rewards of being a caregiver in a supportive and safe environment. Support groups can offer constructive advice and encouragement while giving you a place to rest, relax, and receive new ideas and energy for your role as a caregiver.
Support groups are a good way to talk and have people listen; additionally, seeking a professional therapist can also be a good way to personally handle the stresses of being a caregiver.
2. Create Boundaries
Caregivers often find themselves struggling to create boundaries for themselves. Unlike a regular 9-5 job, caregivers can be on-call constantly. If a medical emergency happens at midnight, you’re there; if something happens at 6am, 3pm, or anytime in between, you are the first to know.
This can create an environment that is hard to pull yourself away from. You are needed, and your caregiving skills are highly important; however, if you aren’t getting enough good sleep, you aren’t eating right, and you don’t have time to pursue your own interests outside of your caregiver role, you will burn out very quickly.
It is important for any caregiver to understand when they need a break, and that their own needs are incredibly important and should be considered. Remember that it isn’t selfish to take time for yourself; in fact, its necessary in order to be able to give your time and self to the person or people you are taking care of.
One way to create boundaries as a caregiver is to carve out time during your week to pursue your own interests. This could be an hour a day, or time you can have someone else come in to be a caregiver while you are away. Find time to pursue your hobbies, interests, and desires.
Meeting up with friends, creating an exercise routine, or just having time for a phone call with a friend or relative can all be an effective way of combating exhaustion and reducing stress. Yoga and meditation are two other ways to keep yourself mentally and physically healthy, while not taking up a ton of time.
Identify your boundaries, and think about the times when you feel the most stressed or overworked; learn to notice these moments and find ways to step back and heal. Having personal goals outside of being a caregiver also gives you something to talk about and be proud of.
3. Create a Support Network
Asking for help is incredibly difficult. Caregivers might feel like if they aren’t doing the job, no one else will. Taking care of an aging parent often falls to the child who is closest, or has the ability to take that person into their home. This can result in family members not feeling like they are helping, or not helping enough.
Having a support network means having people around you who can come in and take over the duties of caregiver when you need a break. Support can also come from medical professionals, therapists, or even friends who can chat on the phone for a few minutes when you need a listening ear.
Find out where you have lanes of support and try to reach out- there are people out there who are willing to help, but they may not know what you need unless you tell them directly.
4. Keep Learning
We can all use information that helps make our lives a little easier to navigate. Utilize the sources of information you have as a caregiver- medical professionals, educators, and even the person you are caring for. All these sources are valuable for those times when you have a problem and aren’t sure what the solution is.
New information helps us be able to adjust our daily routines to include activities, hobbies, and habits that could potentially smooth out bumps in your caregiver relationship.
4. Get to Know Yourself
You can’t care for others properly if you aren’t also caring for yourself. To have the energy to be a caregiver, it is important to get enough sleep, eat well, exercise, and stay healthy. When you’re taking care of another person, holding down a job, taking care of your family, and generally trying to live a balanced life, this is much easier said than done!
Understanding yourself and what you need isn’t selfish, but is ultimately going to help you be a better caregiver. Go to the doctor when you are sick, take time out of your day to eat well, and remember that you are important, too.