Self Care for Caregivers
Caring for an aging loved one can put physical, emotional, and financial strain on a caregiver. Physically assisting an adult can be very demanding on a caregiver’s own body. The emotional strain of caring for a loved one who may not have the mental capacity they once had can be incredibly draining. And if a caregiver has to take off work to help their loved one or place them in an appropriate facility to meet their needs, ensuring that aging relatives have the care they deserve can, unfortunately, put financial pressure on the caregiver as well. In an age where everyone is always hustling, making the time for self-care can seem daunting. Here are a few simple reminders for caregivers to help them live their best life in potentially trying circumstances.
Eating healthy seems simple, but when you’re on the go it can be easy to forget these basic nutritional guidelines. According to the CDC, a healthy diet emphasizes fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean meats, poultry, fish, nuts, beans, and eggs. You don’t have to be a master chef to create tasty and healthy meals – if finding time to prepare even simple meals each day is difficult, set aside a few hours each weekend to meal prep or subscribe to a prepared meal service if funds allow to avoid the drive-through when you’re on the road. On a day when time is tight, grab a protein bar or some nuts for that extra bit of healthy energy.
Though many of us don’t get it, we actually need 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night to function at our best during the day. Setting a bedtime and wakeup time each day that you stick to no matter what can be enormously helpful. Many smartphones can do this easily. If getting in bed isn’t an issue but falling asleep is, you aren’t alone. Stress can cause insomnia, and what caregiver isn’t under stress? According to the National Sleep Foundation, natural sleep aids such as valerian and melatonin can help, as well as relaxation exercises.
Get Plenty of Exercise
Exercise is key for a healthy body and mind. It reduces stress and improves your mood by releasing endorphins. Try to make time for 20 to 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day. You don’t need an expensive gym membership – something as simple as taking the dog for a walk around the block is a great start.
Don’t Forget Your Own Health
Though it may sometimes seem like your weekly routine is already filled to the brim with doctor visits for your loved one, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go to the doctor too. Don’t put off your own check ups or put your own problems on the back burner. If you aren’t healthy, those who rely on you won’t be able to get to their appointments either. Mental health just as important as physical. Depression and anxiety are common when caring for an aging loved one. Emotional pain can affect eating, sleeping, and exercise. Don’t be afraid to contact a therapist if you’re feeling hopelessness or sadness.
Diet, exercise, and sleep all contribute to overall wellness. Remember, you can’t provide the care your loved one needs if you aren’t healthy and happy yourself. These points are simple but easy to forget when thinking only of others. Take a step back and make time for yourself. Your family will thank you.