Self-care tips for caregivers
August 12 2016
Caring for others is a tremendous privilege. It's also a lot of work, whether it's temporary due to short term illness or injury, or long-term such as caring for an ill loved one or aging parent. No matter the situation, you are good to no one if you aren't also good to yourself. Long-term stress suppresses the body's restorative processes and if you aren't careful, you'll be run down and ill yourself.
Following are some easy ways to care for yourself so that you can better care for the ones you love.
Nutrition is so important. Like gas in your car, food is quite literally our fuel. It can be difficult to eat a balanced diet when your schedule may be preoccupied with caring for someone else. And if it's a particularly stressful time, your appetite might be diminished resulting in skipped meals, or opting for comfort foods often low in nutritional value.
You don't need to eat a lot, but you need to eat well. Whole grain toast with peanut butter and banana is easy to digest, has fruit, protein, and carbs and isn't too heavy. The Internet abounds with easy, make-ahead, well-balanced options.
I have written about this before, here. But, in short, our cells need water to function optimally and keep our systems in good working order. By drinking enough water, you will not only feel refreshed, your skin will be clearer, muscles more supple, kidneys functioning smoothly, and digestion/elimination will go more easily.
Schedule ME time
Bubble bath? Walk with friends? A glass of wine while watching cheesy TV? Whatever restores you should be a regular agenda item even while caring for another. If you give all of yourself to someone else, you will wear yourself out sooner than you can imagine. Do what fits best in your schedule. Maybe it's 30 min every day for a bath and some stretching before bed. Or maybe it's easier to enlist a family member to cover for you once every 2 weeks so you can have an entire day off to see a movie and have lunch with friends. Whatever time you can devote to YOU will pay off in terms of your mood and energy level.
Move your body
If you had a regular exercise routing in place before becoming a caregiver, try to get back into that routine even if you have to cut back the frequency. If moving your body was never on your agenda, then start now! It will satisfy some of the ME time spoken about above. But, moving your body will feel GREAT, give you more energy, and help you feel restored. So, by all means, keep up with your Pilates and Yoga classes. But, you can also simply take a walk in the woods or tend some flower pots on your patio which require no schedule or financial commitment. Incidentally, research has shown that the bacteria you inhale while gardening and spending time in the woods is healthy. It's not what you do, it's moving your body that counts.
Get a massage
Let someone take care of YOU for an hour. No phone, no demands. Just an opportunity to let the stress dissolve away for a short time and release some of your own stress.
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