Don’t Lose Your Identity While Caregiving – Eight Tips on How to Get Your Health Back

Holidays are here, and we are busier than ever trying to care for our loved ones.  It can be really exhausting, especially if you don’t know how to take care of yourself amongst all of the ruckus, like doctor’s appointments, errands, changing diapers, legal stuff, and emotional support. Some say caregiving is like raising a child, except there are less signs of growth, albeit everyone’s situation is different.CargivingMomDaughterKMWThere is a sense of loss, not only for your loved one, but for yourself as well, which results in that wonderful natural response called grieving. That’s just part of it! Nobody tells caregivers how to prepare for this. Children, grandchildren, and friends can get thrown into this position at any age. They have to rearrange their work and school schedules, sacrifice their only day off, and strive to maintain their own health. It can be the most exhausting time in a person’s life.  Don’t worry, you are not alone. And if it’s not your turn now, it will be sooner or later.CaregivingBluesKMW

How can caregiving become easier?

1.  Prioritize Your Life.  

We all have busy schedules and it’s hard to let go of the normal routine. Since it’s harder to let go of our loved ones, maybe you can find something easier to let go of, so you can have more time for your mind, body and soul. Is there an obligation you can say no to at work or in the community? Can you cut out a daily errand? Can you reduce your college class load for one semester? Does your child really need to do another extracurricular activity? Anything you can do to save time is valuable.MakeTimeNoLogo

2.  Light Exercise.

Walk. Just walk. You will be amazed how light or moderate exercise lets your brain decompress. Daily fitness increases your brain’s neurotransmitter, serotonin, which results in happier moods and gets you away from feeling blue. Don’t like walking? Find a light exercise you enjoy and take care of your physical health.WalkingCoupleKMW

3.  Give Yourself Quiet Time.

I know we want to be around people who can support us, but your body needs time to itself too. Allow yourself at least 30 minutes to relax each day – a hot bath? Take yourself out for ice cream?  Write?  Take Photos? Play Music? Just make sure it’s a chore-free zone. Turn the computer, phone and TV off! Breathe and embrace your moment.QuietTimeKMW

4.  Eat Healthier.

Yes, it’s convenient to grab fast food, but this actually can make matters worse. Find healthier meal options. Go eat at the grocery store cafe and/or include more fruits and vegetables in your diet.  Nutrient dense food improves your metabolism, boosts your immune system, and gives you the energy you need to maintain mood stability.EatingHealthyFriendsKMW

5.  Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Day(s) Off From Work.

Our culture has been brought up to believe that we can only call in when we’re physically sick, but mental health is part of wellness. If your mental health is not kosher, then revitalize it.  Don’t make it worse on yourself. You wouldn’t go into work with the flu, would you? Take a series of mini-vacations if you can get more than a day off.  You need it!TakeYourDayNoLogo

6.  Ask for Help.

You possibly can’t do it all, so don’t think you can.  Assistance programs like the National Council on Aging provides a plethora of resources for caregivers like support groups, Meals on Wheels, financial help and sitter assistance. Whatever your need is, they will guide you in the right direction for your specific geographic location. Churches are also a wonderful place to ask for help.  Don’t be afraid to ask.DeliveringMealsKMW

7.  Be Social.

This is the best time to go out with friends. They’ll remind you and help you refocus on what you love in life. Venting and talking help relieve stress, and you could also be learning something from your friends on this matter. Go have fun, be silly and laugh! And don’t forget to go on date night with your significant other!girltimekmw

8.  Gratitude.

Do this every day, even if you aren’t a caregiver. Uplift your mind from whatever elements have been taken away from you. Being thankful is such a small task that will improve your quality of life.gratitudeDay

“Staying healthy while caring for loved ones can be challenging.  The best thing I can do for myself is spend time with God.  This helps me to stay focused and remember why I am here and who I’m really doing this for!  The next best thing is to have fun while I’m out with my husband or with my girlfriends!  Girlfriend time is another must thing to do!”  – Dena Jordan, Melbourne, Florida.loveyourselfkmw

Loving yourself is the most important thing you can do to be able to function fully. Without doing it, your health could be worse than the person you are caring for. You’re definitely not alone in this.  Don’t let a life event like this take your freedom and self-awareness away from you. Up your ability.

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1 Response

  1. Rachel Wilson says:

    Great article, Amy. In years of care giving I have learned that time out for yourself, taking what help you can get, and above all else, gratitude, are what keeps me going. Care giving can be exhausting but there is nothing more rewarding than knowing you are make a huge difference in the life of someone, especially someone you love!!

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