Self-Care for Caregivers: Why It's Important
One of the challenges of being a caregiver is that the rest of life doesn't stop. Even when a loved one is struggling, bills still need to be paid, meals still need to be eaten, and sometimes tires go flat, whether you have time for it or not. Your needs don't evaporate either.
Everyone functions better when their basic requirements, such as sleep, good food, and exercise are met. When you're caring for someone it can seem impossible to find the energy and time to focus on yourself. But now, more than ever, you need to add your own name to the list of what's important. Here’s how to prioritize self-care for caregivers.
Recognize what stress does to the body
When a loved one needs extra care, it's common for a caregiver to focus only on their family member and fail to recognize how the strain is affecting them. Being aware of how stress impacts the body is the first step to dealing with it.
Some things to look out for are headaches, forgetfulness, fatigue, insomnia, stomach problems such as nausea, unexplained physical pain, and tense muscles. Feeling the physical effects of stress isn't weakness; it's your body giving you feedback that you need more support.
There are some basic human needs that everyone has. Daily exercise, good food, and adequate sleep are on that list. Basically, if you wouldn't let a toddler go without something, you probably shouldn't deny it to yourself either. However, finding the time to do these things can seem impossible when you're focused on meeting someone else's needs.
So how to prioritize self-care for caregivers? Try to remember that self-care doesn't have to be perfect to be helpful. You may not be able to eat a home-cooked meal every day, but grab an apple on your way out the door and see how refreshing it can be for a snack. An hour-long workout may not be possible, but perhaps you can fit in a brisk walk between appointments. Even small efforts can make a difference, so try to give yourself that gift.
What do you need?
Besides making sure your basic needs are met, try to identify a few practices that are particularly meaningful to you. Many people find meditation helpful, but maybe listening to music is better for you. Some people find that spending a few minutes creating art helps them unwind. If you crave that kind of relaxation, try to set aside a few minutes to sketch or paint.
Everyone finds peace in different activities, so for some people, baking bread can be as helpful as journaling. The important thing is to recognize what resonates with you. Spend a few minutes thinking about what makes you feel stronger, and carve out a little time for that.
Remember that you don't only deserve self-care so you can continue to meet the needs of your loved one. You also deserve to be cared for. At Senior Helpers, we would love to assist you in making room to give yourself that attention. Please contact us today to learn more about the care services we offer to help seniors in the East Tucson area.