Simple Tips to Care for Yourself and Your Caree
Caregivers have full plates. Between running your life and caring for a loved one, it can be overwhelming. Since you are the type of person who drops everything to care for the needs of others, it’s likely that you are also the type of person who puts your own needs last.
While putting yourself on the back burner for a short time won’t be too detrimental to your health, putting off your own wellbeing in the long term can have an impact on your health – not just now, but in the future. It can be difficult to fit self-care into your caregiving schedule, but you need to make yourself a priority before you need your own caregiver.
I have made the mistake (many, many times) of focusing on caring for everyone else, working long hours and letting my health fail. It ends up taking me so long to recover and get back to myself. I know it would be smarter to just keep my own health top of mind, but it isn’t in my DNA. I am a type A people pleaser who always puts the needs of everyone else above mine. I imagine most caregivers have the same personality traits so I understand your challenges.
Simple Wellness Strategies for Caregivers
If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to being your own caregiver, here are some simple ways to care for yourself.
- Eat Better: You don’t have to revamp your entire diet, just do your best to make small changes to improve your diet. It is much easier to grab a candy bar or bag of chips when you are hungry than to prepare a healthy snack, but if you have healthy snacks on hand, you will be more likely to eat them. If you think it is too expensive to eat healthy, there are ways to cut costs. If prepping healthy foods is too overwhelming, there are shortcuts you can take. If it seems selfish to put so much energy into improving your diet, thing of the benefits to your caree when you are both eating better.
- Move More: Carving out time to go to the gym can be impossible for caregivers. There just aren’t enough hours in the day! That doesn’t mean you should take an all or nothing approach and stop exercising altogether. Just 15 minutes a day can make a difference. Take a walk around the block with your caree. Do some stretches before bed and some more stretches when you get out of bed. Just find a few extra ways to move. There are tons of videos on YouTube.com or you can watch fitness videos if you have On Demand through your cable TV provider.
- Take Time for Yourself: I know you have a lot on your plate, but give yourself something to look forward to every week or even every month. Take an afternoon to do something you used to enjoy before you became a caregiver. If you’re struggling to find the old you, make a list of things you’d like to try and pick one thing every week or month. Find someone to step in as a back-up caregiver, even if you need to pay them, and take at least two hours away from your caregiving responsibilities.
- Focus On The Positives: It can be hard to focus on the positives when you are overwhelmed and under a lot of stress. Try thinking of one thing you are grateful for at the end of each day and write it down in a gratitude journal. If you can’t think of anything, I’ll give you a fall back one – You and your loved one woke up to see another day today. Sometimes we forget to be grateful for that very amazing gift. If your caree is struggling with depression, you do this together so that you’re both focusing on the positive more frequently.
- Sleep Better: If you are like me, it can be hard to get a good night’s sleep when you’re under stress. Of course, this is when you most need a good night’s sleep! I have learned to protect me sleep, meaning, I don’t stay up late to watch something on TV and I try to get myself into a relaxed mindset before sleep. I always feel better after sleeping well and getting regular, consistent sleep is good for your overall help, so don’t skip out on sleep to get more chores done!
- Make Your Space Peaceful: I know it takes time to de-clutter and organize but you’ll feel so much more at peace in your home when you do. You don’t have to do it all in one swoop. Set aside 20 minutes a day on weekends to just go through an area and de-clutter. Over time, you’ll make some major headway. I have been doing this in my own home and really see a difference. My space is more relaxing now that there aren’t piles everywhere. When you clear a space, put something pretty that you enjoy looking at there so you won’t fall into your old clutter habits.
I know it can be hard to squeeze in your own needs when you are a caregiver to someone else. You need to continue to remind yourself that you are worth the trouble. Your future is at stake if you don’t care for yourself now. You need to put the same love and care you pour into your caregiving duties into caring for yourself, even if you just take baby steps.
Start small and incorporate your caree into your wellness routine. Pick one thing to start with and go from there. Eventually, these wellness tasks will become part of your routine and they’ll become second nature, not an extra to do.