If you’re a caregiver, one of the most important things you can do is carve out time for yourself. Try to make this a conscious effort every day. It can be as simple as spending 10 minutes walking around the neighborhood, diving into the latest bestseller or weeding your garden.
Even a small step toward rejuvenation will benefit you, and, in turn, the loved one in your care.
The fact is, if you don’t learn how to take a timeout, your frustration is likely to boil over. You’ll be less productive and your relationship with your loved one could suffer.
Consider this list of things you can do for yourself:
- Get regular physical activity. Regular, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity — even in small increments — can boost your energy level. Exercise reduces stress, helps you maintain a healthy weight, and can help you keep your blood pressure and cholesterol at heart-healthy levels. Walking is a great way to get started, even if you only walk around the yard.
- Maintain a heart-healthy diet. A healthy diet will give you more energy. Eating well can help prevent other health problems, too. If you have to “eat on the run” (which can certainly happen), try to choose nutritious snacks.
- Make time for yourself. Take time every day for an activity you enjoy, such as reading, walking, crafts, cooking or listening to music. Whatever makes you happy and relaxes you can be therapeutic.
- Keep humor in your life. It’s true — laughter is good medicine. Try to find humor in your situation. Watch a silly TV program or seek out a movie that tickles your funny bone. Find things to laugh about with the loved one in your care — that person needs joy too.
- Get out and about. At least once a week, break out of your routine and go somewhere enjoyable. Visit the local coffee shop, attend church events, take a class, visit a friend or just wander around the mall. If your loved one needs constant attention, ask for help. It’s likely that someone will be happy to give up an hour or two a week so that you can get out and get a breath of fresh air.
- Watch out for depression. The demands placed on you as a caregiver can be difficult and stressful. Be vigilant for signs of depression. Often depression symptoms can be managed with the help of talk therapy or medication.
- Take care of business. Keep your checkbook and accounts balanced, work when you need to and don’t stop planning for the future. If you allow yourself to be totally immersed in your caregiver responsibilities alone, it’ll be harder to re-integrate into life later on. Keep living.
- Keep medical and dental appointments. Do all you can to keep from getting sick. If you’re sick, you won’t be able to do what your loved one needs. Ask for help when you need it so you can get away and take care of your health.
- Think positive. Take time every day to refresh your mind. Acknowledge your limitations, and make peace with them. Let go of guilt. Pat yourself on the back for the job you’re doing. If you’re feeling guilty or angry, take a break.
- Stay connected with the outside world. Don’t allow yourself to become isolated. Stay connected with family and friends, even if it’s just by phone or online. Talk to friends about something other than your role as a caregiver.