As a caregiver, you may be so focused on your loved one or client that you don’t realize your own health and well-being are suffering. The emotional and physical demands involved with caregiving can strain even the most resilient person. That’s why it’s important to take advantage of the many resources and tools available to help you provide care for your loved one and yourself! Remember, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to care for anyone else.
1. Identify and acknowledge your Feelings
If you are a caregiver over a long period, you are likely to experience a wide range of emotions including sadness, guilt, anger, and resentment. Don’t push them away, but try to identify the feelings you are experiencing. They might be sending you messages that you need to listen and respond to.
If, for example, you are experiencing deep feelings of sadness. you could be grieving a loss. This could be the loss of the parent you once knew as strong and in control. But now this same parent is in need of your care. Whatever the underlying emotions, you will need to take steps to understand and deal with them. This might mean seeing a professional counselor who could help you to work through the issues related to the emotions you are experiencing.
2. Change Negative Self-Talk
You could find that your attitudes and beliefs hinder your taking care of yourself properly. For example, you might feel that you are selfish if you pay attention to your own needs. Or, you may find it difficult, or feel inadequate to ask for what you need.
You need to change the negative ways of viewing the situation that you are in. Your feelings and behaviors are largely influenced by your thinking or self-talk. So you might be telling yourself that others won’t help you, and so you don’t ask for the help you need.
3. Practice Stress Management Techniques
As a caregiver, you need to practice communicating in a clear, assertive and constructive way. As you do, you will find that you will be heard, and you can elicit the support you need.
You could begin by using “I” statements instead of “you” statements. When you do this, you express how you are feeling without blaming others. It is likely then, that others will be less defensive and more willing to listen to you.
Try to speak openly and honestly about what you are experiencing, but do so in a respectful way. At the same time, listen to others, and try to understand their point of view. This could go a far way to ease some of the stress and conflicts that you experience in caregiving.
4. Maintain Your Own Health
Enjoy a balanced diet, and eat regular meals that include fruits and vegetables. You need energy to be alert and effective. Keep physically active, take time for walking and other activities. Get enough sleep to to replenish you for your daily tasks. Schedule relaxing bedtime routines, such as relaxing in a hot bath or listening to music.
5. Make Arrangements for Respite
You need to identify people who can provide you with respite. You could take advantage of respite care services that are offered, or another family member could fill in for you.
This could give you a temporary break, for a few hours or for a longer time, to do things to recharge yourself. Be sure to make private time for yourself, where you can read, listen to music, write in your journal, or just do stuff that you love to do.