Practicing Self-Care for Caregivers

Anyone that has provided care for an aging family member knows that it can be a very rewarding, yet exhausting, endeavour. In order to continue to be effective, caregivers must engage in self-care practices or they run the risk of needing medical care and assistance themselves.

What is Self-Care?

Self-care is getting heavy exposure these days, as self-improvement and striving for better health, in general, are on the rise. A surge in health problems over the last couple of decades has been largely associated with poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, and excessive stress. People are now trying to correct these issues by focusing on self-care.

Self-care involves taking an active role in your own wellbeing, instead of waiting for disaster to strike before paying any attention to your health.

Why is self-care particularly important for caregivers?

When you spend a lot of your time caring for others, it is sometimes difficult to find the time and energy to focus on yourself. The problem with this situation is that it is almost impossible to provide effective care for another person if you are not making time for self-care.

Overdoing it on time and effort put into caregiving can lead to all kinds of problems, such as:

  • Irritability
  •  Fatigue
  • Sleep deprivation
  •  Poor nutrition
  •  Lack of exercise
  • Social isolation
  • Financial issues
  • Resentment
  •  Despair

These issues can all culminate in the form of caregiver burnout, which is a real problem for many family caregivers across Canada, as they to balance too many responsibilities and neglect their own wellbeing.

What is caregiver burnout?

Caregiver burnout is a fairly common issue and is exactly as it sounds. It comes from focusing too much time on care for others, and not enough time on self-care.

Methods for Practicing Self-Care

It is essential for caregivers to make time for themselves, and focus on their own interests and needs. Some effective ways to implement self-care might be:

  • Recognize your own interests and make time for them
  •  Exercise self-compassion
  • Reduce stress as much as possible
  • Make nutrition, exercise, and sleep a priority
  • Be social on a regular basis
  • Take a break or vacation
  • Ask for help from a professional home care agency

Recognize your Needs

A big problem that a lot of caregivers face is that they fail to consider their own needs and interests. It can be challenging to decide what it is that you really want, especially if you rarely think about it. One good approach is to try determining your needs in the moment.

Make some time each day to focus on your own needs by asking yourself, “What do I need right now?” The answer could be a relaxing cup of tea and a book. Maybe it is a 30-minute nap. Perhaps, it’s a glass of wine on the patio. It could be visiting friends, or attending a social event.

Taking the time to consider your needs each day will help you naturally implement them into your regular routine.

Exercise Self-Compassion

Self-compassion and self-care go hand in. If you don’t truly care about your own health and happiness, it is much less likely that you will ever achieve it. Never feel guilty about making time for yourself, it is necessary if you have any hope of providing effective care to others.

Reduce Stress

Easier said than done in a lot of cases, but stress is one of the major contributors to disease and illness. Try some deep conscious breathing techniques. The goal is to focus on every deep breath, breathing in positive energy, and exhaling tension. Even 10 minutes a day of focused breathing can help reduce stress. Other good stress relievers are meditation, yoga, or tai chi.

Nutrition, Exercise, and Sleep

These are 3 things your body absolutely needs for good health. Effective self-care means avoiding processed, fatty, and sugary foods while focusing on eating fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. 30 minutes to an hour of exercise a day can help build up the immune system when combined with a healthy diet.  Try to get upwards of 8 hours of quality sleep a night if possible.

Social Activity

Social interaction is also crucial to overall health, coming in just behind nutrition, exercise, and sleep. It is easy to become socially isolated if all your time goes into caring for a loved one. Regular social activity is helpful for keeping the mind sharp and warding off dementia.

Take a Break or Vacation

Take some time for yourself, away from caregiving, to do something that you enjoy. This may involve taking a trip somewhere, or maybe just taking some time to relax and recoup.

Ask for Help

Never be afraid to ask for help. Home support care services are available through a professional home care agency like Promyse Home Care. It is offered to give family caregivers a well-deserved break. A wide range of services are available any time you need them, from assisting with activities of daily living to improving health and managing medical conditions.

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