Family Caregiving and Self-Care
As family caregivers, we pour our energy in caring for our aging loved one. This time commitment often leads us to neglect ourselves. This is because our schedules become extra busy once we adopt the role of a family caregiver. Not only are we spending time with our loved one, we are probably trying to balance our career, taking care of our family, as well as maintaining social relationships. This is a lot.
One of the biggest rules that caregivers have to learn is to prioritize self-care. We want to emphasize that this is one of the most important ways that you can be the best caregiver you can. Why? Because self-care promotes longevity, energy, good mental health and many other benefits. These results are only beneficial to your role as a caregiver, and it ensures that your loved one is getting quality and consistent care from you.
Tips on Self-Care
(1) Get rid of guilt: This is a topic that comes up a lot in the caregiving world. Caregivers often express guilt because they do not think what they do is enough or they do not want to let go of control over certain situations. Sometimes, they feel guilty because they develop anger and resentment toward their situation but then feel bad about it. One of the most common reasons people feel guilty is because some people wish they could think about themselves more. These are all normal feelings, but we want to encourage you to not let guilt paralyze. Ultimately, guilt is not a very productive emotion if you dwell on it for too long. Understand that feeling guilty in some situations is normal, but let the emotion pass through you as opposed to dwelling with the emotion for days to come. Also, do not feel ashamed to take some time off for yourself as taking a break every now and then can be good for you and your loved one.
(2) Take care of your body: One of the worst things you can do to yourself is to neglect your physical health. Your overall physical health is connected to other aspects of your health, like mental and emotional wellbeing. Take some time to think about what exercises you like to do, and schedule them for a few days out of the week. It is understandable if you are too busy some days—life happens. But it is important to try and devote some time to physical activity during the week, maybe two or three days each week. Physical activity can help you sleep better, improve mood, as well as help you maintain a regular weight.
(3) Take breaks: Taking breaks is essential for self-care. Without breaks, we would all just collapse from exhaustion (maybe you have felt like you’ve wanted to!). We must take breaks to help our bodies and minds re-energize. A great thing any caregiver can do is to ask for help. There is no shame in it. Asking for help can allow you the extra time to relax and rejuvenate yourself. Some options for additional help include asking other family members or hiring a professionally trained caregiver. Taking some time to slow down and to spend some time doing things other than working will greatly benefit your mental health.