When you care for a loved one disabled by illness, the focus is on giving. Giving your time, effort and attention to meet another’s needs. Giving up your own pursuits and pleasures, freedom and friends, maybe school and career. As a caregiver, you’re an unsung hero – but you’re also human. It’s essential to take a break, accept help and make time to meet your own needs. Taking a little time out from caregiving replenishes your body, mind and soul to fulfill an incredibly demanding role. Here are some self-care suggestions.
Take a quick break.
Take a five-minute respite. If you’re thinking, “How can I take a break? I’m so overwhelmed,” that’s all the more reason to do so. If you’re ready to lose it, it’s best to just step aside. Take a breath, have a quick change of pace and return. Short breaks aren’t a luxury – they’re critical.
Invite others in.
Often, it’s difficult for people who have taken on the role of caregiver to receive support, much less ask for it. Invite neighbors and friends to step in and join you. Let others know that a couple hours of their company and conversation would really help.
Carve out down time.
As a caregiver, you likely put your own life on hold. Your responsibilities may start at breakfast and end well past dinner. Try carving out some time for yourself. Maybe create time to read in the evenings. That way you have time off, too.
Turn to friends.
Ask your friends to take your place sometimes. The biggest thing my friends can do for you may just be to stay with your loved one when you need to be away. Or ask them to prepare a meal for your family or the person for whom you are caring.
Squeeze in exercise.
Just 30 minutes of exercise can make you feel better physically and mentally. The endorphins you create when exercising can make you feel happier and better able to take on your caregiver duties. Try walking around the block. Or yoga. You’ll be surprised how much it helps.
Even if you can’t get away, nature’s restorative power is as close as your backyard or balcony. As a caregiver, nature can renew and refresh your energy.
Listen to the music.
Music can provide a great escape. Whether you listen to it with your loved one or by yourself, listening to music can reduce anxiety and leave you rejuvenated.
Calm your mind.
Whether that means going to church or doing some quiet meditation, calming your mind can help you with the stress of being a caregiver.
Share your story.
If you need help dealing with being a caregiver and all of the emotions that involves, please reach out to Forge’s Client Services Coordinator, Janet Dees, at (205) 990-5367 or [email protected]. She can match you with Peer Mentor who has been a caregiver, too, and understands, connect you with a support group, or provide you with free mental health counseling. As a co-survivor, you deserve support, too.