When you spend your days caring for a partner or relative, you tend to forget someone who needs just as much love and support.
As a caregiver, you deserve a little me-time each day to de-stress and recharge. But a lack of time, others’ needs and even guilt may hold you back from practicing the self-care we all require for our overall physical and mental health.
According to AARP, 22 percent of caregivers say their health has declined due to stress. And when stress is long-term and toxic, it can lead to a higher risk of depression, obesity and life-threatening illnesses. That’s why fitting in a few minutes to take a walk or read a book isn’t selfish or indulgent—those few minutes can prevent the burnout that affects your ability to care for your loved one.
So how can you fit in self-care?
- Take a breath. Meditation doesn’t have to be as existential as you think. You can practice breath awareness in just 10 minutes each day. Find a comfortable seat and close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose for five counts and breathe out through your mouth for another five. As you breathe, begin to repeat supportive mantras in your mind – “I am strong.” “I will be kind to myself.” “I am the best caregiver I can be.”
- Whip on your walking shoes. Studies show that even five minutes of exercise can lower your depression and anxiety by producing stress-fighting endorphins. And when you take that exercise outdoors, the benefits are even greater since nature reduces one’s fatigue, cortisol levels and blood pressure. If you can’t get outside, step on a treadmill or pop in a yoga DVD. Once you restart your exercise routine, you’ll also notice that your sleep is more restful, even when life feels overwhelming.
- Get social. With everything you’re managing, maintaining relationships with friends and other family members can fall to the wayside. To prevent caregiver isolation, spend time with those important to you, even if it’s just a few minutes for coffee or a phone call. And because many people simply don’t face the same obstacles you do, consider reaching out to a support group as well. Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri offers a searchable database of caregiver support groups in St. Louis that focus on everything from Alzheimer’s to cancer.
- Rediscover your passions. While you may not be able to dedicate the time you once did, pick up the hobbies you’ve had to push to the side. If you love gardening, for instance, but don’t have time for a full garden, plant an herb garden or a flower bed. If you always loved reading, skip the laundry and catch up on that new bestseller while your loved one is sleeping. Or, try a new hobby like journaling, which helps you focus on the feelings you’re facing each day.
- Load up on your vitamins and nutrients. When life gets busy, we often grab a quick meal over the sink or skip a meal altogether. However, when under stress, your body needs proper nutrition to fight it off. Make time for three balanced meals each day and focus on healthy stress-killing foods that are easy to grab and prepare, like nuts, salmon, oatmeal, avocados, green tea, and dark chocolate.
- Lean on others. Whether you need an afternoon off to relax and recoup or need someone to stay the night so you can get some sleep, a St Louis home care company like AccuCare can partner your loved one with a dedicated, professional caregiver. Even just a few hours of respite care in the hands of someone you trust can make your stress levels and revigorate you for the challenges ahead.
The experienced staff at AccuCare understands the struggles caregivers face and is here to support you at every step. Contact us today to learn how our care team can take some of your stress off your shoulders and give you the break you need to be a better caregiver overall.