Importance of Self-Care for Caregivers
If you’re new to the caregiving field, you will quickly come to discover the stresses of the job. If you don’t have an established self-care routine, you will want to develop one, and quickly. Here are some ways you can invest in yourself to better handle stressful situations.
Meeting the bare minimum of your physical necessities is important to your physical and emotional health. Physical self-care includes your diet, water intake, and fitness. It also includes sleeping enough to manage your daily activities. Many doctors suggest that 30 minutes of exercise five days a week is the standard for optimum health. It’s a good idea to combine both aerobic and weight work during your fitness routines. You should also eat three meals a day with a healthy dose of snacking in between. Choose healthy foods when you can by preparing your food ahead of time. You may think you’re losing out on time by doing so, but it does not take that much longer to cut up a whole head of celery than just one or two individual stalks.
Just as we need to look after our bodies, our brains need daily attention too. It’s a good idea to do a little something to keep your brain flexible and engaged. There are many things you can do to entertain yourself while keeping your mind sharp. Puzzles of all kinds are popular, like Sudoku, crosswords, or playing Scrabble games with friends. Even something as simple as reading something new can help with mental self-care. Pick up the book you’ve been putting off before going to bed, or read an article about a topic you’d like to learn more about during your lunch. It really doesn’t take much to keep things in peak shape.
When we are stressed, it can be hard to be at our best. It’s important, however, not to self-medicate with addictive substances. There are healthy ways to deal with our emotions rather than relying on something like alcohol or other substances. It can be hard to break negative habits, but it’s important for our own well-being. Start by putting your needs first. If you’re exhausted but a friend asks you to go out, it’s in your best interest to say no this time. Pay attention to your emotional state and understand that while every emotion you have is valid, it is not reflective of yourself. You are more than how you feel. Use positive words and try to cultivate positive thoughts. Negative thinking can be cyclical and cause further distress. It may feel strange and like you’re lying to yourself at first, but replace every negative thought with a positive one. Sooner than you think, it will become second nature.
Scheduling time with your loved ones can have a marked effect on how you feel. If you feel isolated, you’re more likely to experience stress, illness, and high cholesterol. When you’re too tired to go out, you can call a friend and have a chat. Talking about how you’re doing and being emotionally vulnerable with loved ones not only invites closeness, but it can help you process your anxieties. However, physical closeness is also necessary for optimal health. Hug your loved ones and stroke your child’s hair when you’re both relaxing and watching television.
It may seem like a lot to manage, but each aspect of self-care is vital to overall well-being. You may not be able to hit each aspect every day, but make sure you’re seeing to your needs weekly. Remember, your well-being dictates not only how you feel, but how you interact with the world around you.
Harry Cline is creator of NewCaregiver.org and author of the upcoming book, The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers. As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support.
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