5 Self-Care Habits You Should Know
We love our family members, and when they get ill or need extra assistance, we quickly step into the caregiving role. And while caregiving is very important, it’s also exhausting. If our loved one has health issues, we might be navigating from one crisis to the next with no immediate end in sight. During this process, we often put our own needs aside “temporarily” as we focus on the more urgent needs of our loved ones. But the problem is we’re human, and we get burned out.
An estimated 44 million Americans ages 18 and older are providing unpaid assistance and support to the elderly and adults with disabilities. The demands of caregiving, however, can affect our health and well-being. But how can we, as caregivers, care for ourselves when we have little to no time, and perhaps, no external support?
Reduce Stress With Meditation
You might be thinking, “I barely have enough time to do dishes, let alone sit quietly doing nothing!” But the benefits of a short meditation session are very impactful. In fact, evidence shows that after meditating for only 20 minutes daily five times a week, people had measurably lower anxiety and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Care for Your Body
Feeling “drained” isn’t in your head, it’s in your body as well. Stress demands from caregiving wear down the body, making you more susceptible to illness, with 70 percent of caregivers facing some sort of illness. Regular exercise may help reduce stress, improve your mood and improve your overall health.
Caring for your loved one may, at times, feel isolating and lonely. And because we’re so busy, we can lose touch with our support system, mainly our close friends and family members. Having social outlets, however, is critical to self-care.
Talk to family members, friends and — even better — others who are caretaking like you, and discuss the challenges that you are experiencing. Get ideas and support from one another.
Focus on Gratitude
It’s not always easy to focus on gratitude when you’re living with a stressful and demanding caregiving situation. But recent studies have found that the expression of gratitude has a profound positive effect on health and mood, which are critical when caretaking. Consider starting a short daily “gratitude” list with a few items you’re grateful for in order to improve your mood and feel better.
Schedule a Day Off
Caregivers rarely get a day, or even a few hours, off from tending to their loved ones. And while it’s good to be dedicated to those we care about, it leaves us feeling burned out and empty. Ask for help and schedule an occasional weekend or day off, or even just a few hours off. Having this time will allow you to recharge, which will ultimately make you a more loving and patient caregiver.