The Importance of Self-Care for Caregivers
When you are the caregiver for a loved one without support or community programs, it may be challenging and can often be overwhelming.
The International Self-Care Day, 24 July, symbolizes the benefits of self-care work 24 hours a day, every day. The benefits of self-care do not just relate to a single day.
Having a designated day creates awareness and hopefully impacts the importance of self-care for our caregivers every day.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, caregivers still face challenges contributed by isolation and lack of service accessibility. These challenges may bring on emotional distress, depression, or anxiety.
Recognizing that COVID-19 has increased the strain on our healthcare system, caregivers more than ever play an important role in service delivery to their loved ones.
As a caregiver, you are doing the best you can, and it is essential to ensure that your mental and physical self is also in good standing.
Here are some self-care tips for our caregivers:
1. Have a backup caregiver or someone willing to help if you become ill and need a mental break.
2. Reach out to support services that assist with household tasks such as shopping, transportation, meal preparation or virtual visitations.
3. Do something unrelated to caregiving support whenever you can. Making time to do something fun or that you love brings you back more refreshed and able to care for your loved ones.
Self-Care Mentally and Physically
Your entire body, both physically and mentally, can manifest stress and understanding how stress affects you as a caregiver is critical.
Signs of mental stress are:
• Low energy
• Stomach and digestive issues that may include diarrhea, constipation and even nausea
• Restless sleep
• Aches and tense muscles
Please notice when you feel these signs of stress and what brought them on. When you know what situations create more pressure, it is easier to prepare and cope with them when they arise.
Improving your physical well-being will support your mental health. It is easier to maintain good mental habits when your body is strong and has a resilient foundation.
Invest in some form of exercise every day, whether a long walk or an aerobics or yoga class. When you exercise your body produces stress-relieving hormones and improves your overall health.
Eating vegetables, fresh fruit, and whole grain is key to a healthy body. Healthy eating helps lower the risk for chronic diseases and stabilizes your energy levels and mood.
Nothing can replace a good night’s sleep. The general rule is 7 – 9 hours a night but if that is not possible, try taking a brief 15 – 30-minute nap during the day. It will help you feel more alert.
Meditation with deep breathing, meditation and muscle relaxation techniques are easy, quick ways to reduce stress. When conflicts arise between you and your family member, these tools can help you feel less controlled by stressful feelings and give you the time to think clearly about what to do next.
Take time to Recharge
When you’re a caregiver for someone with an illness like mental illness, it may seem difficult to find time 'me' time, and when you do, you may feel distracted by what you think you should be doing. It is so valuable to find time for yourself without feeling you’re neglecting others.
Take small steps and think about what you enjoyed doing before you became a caregiver. If having lunch with your friends every few weeks made you laugh and feel good then put that back into your schedule.
It’s difficult to take good care of anyone else if you’re not taking care of yourself first, so make time to care of yourself.