Caregivers, whether they are paid or not, often fall into the trap of caring for everyone but themselves. If you care for an aging loved one, you understand how stressful it can be to tend to another’s needs. It’s easy to push away your own needs, but doing so puts you at risk for burnout, stress, and other health concerns of your own.
Practicing self-care can help caregivers reduce the risk of burning out. These ten simple strategies can help you care for your own needs, even as you care for others.
- Put your own needs first. It may go against your instincts as a caregiver, but you’ll be able to better manage the needs of others if you take better care of yourself. Start by prioritizing your physical needs – that means eating well, exercising, and sleeping at least 7 to 8 hours each night.
- Make time to relax. Whether your quiet indulgence is a hot bath or a good book, make a plan to regularly take time out for yourself. Even if you only have a few minutes to relax, make yourself a cup of tea or enjoy your favorite song.
- Take a day off. If you can’t imagine taking time off from caregiving, that’s probably a signal that you need (and deserve) a break. Sometime soon, when you are scheduled to care for your patient or loved one, take a vacation day or ask a friend or relative to fill in.
- Talk to someone. Whether that person is a paid professional or a trusted friend, having someone to whom you can vent or just chat can help you relieve stress and work through challenges.
- Practice mindfulness. Research has shown that mindfulness practice can reduce stress and anxiety and bring you peace of mind. While some mindfulness can take the form of intensive meditation, you can reap some of the same benefits by just taking deep breaths or reciting a short mantra in the middle of a tough day.
- Reduce caregiving stressors. If you find that specific tasks are making caregiving feel overwhelming, enlist help. For unpaid caregivers looking after a family member, consider hiring paid help to take on the more demanding or tiring caregiving tasks.
- Find an escape. Vacations are a great way to get away from daily worries, but if a trip away won’t work for you, consider local adventures to take your mind off caregiving. Ride roller coasters at your local theme park, visit to a nearby outlet mall, or enjoy dinner at an expensive restaurant.
- Remember your boundaries. It’s easy for caregivers to forgo all their personal needs for the sake of their loved one. But remember your own limits and set appropriate boundaries with family members and other caregivers.
- Get outside. Spending time in nature can help relieve stress and give you a break from caregiving. Take a weekend camping trip or a lunchtime stroll in a neighborhood park.
- Savor the good times. Caregiving has its ups and downs and it’s easy to focus on the negative. When the good moments come along, take the time to enjoy them and file them in your memory to reflect upon later.
In some cases, you may find that you are no longer able to care for your aging loved one without sacrificing your own wellbeing. Planning ahead for the long-term care needs of yourself and your loved ones can help you more easily transition care to a professional. The dedicated team at Life Care Funding can help you understand your financial options and in most cases, help you pay for long term care with the Life Care Funding program. Whether you need care now or are simply looking ahead to the future, contact us today with your stories, questions, or comments!