In honor of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month, we’ve got some self-care tips for those family members and friends who support and take care of others in need.
Are you a caregiver, or do you know someone who is? Maybe you’re taking care of an elderly parent, a sick child, a person with a disability, or a friend who needs extra help. You might even be a professional caregiver—such as a home health aide—who offers non-medical assistance to those in need.
No matter your situation, if you’re taking care of someone else you may be in the position of putting someone else’s needs above your own. In fact, you may do this so often that you don’t recognize when you too need help.
We’ve got the details on how to spot caregiver stress and burnout, plus tips on how to help yourself when you need it the most.
Caring for someone else can be fulfilling, but it can also cause stress. Unlike other jobs or responsibilities, caregiving may require your constant attention for months or even years. This type of commitment can be overwhelming. Not getting the support you need can lead to an unhealthy situation for yourself and the person for whom you care.
It’s important to recognize any of the following signs of stress or burnout so you can deal with them right away.
If you experience any of these signs of stress or burnout, try one or all of the following self-care options to get yourself right again.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from family members, friends, or other volunteers. Speak up when you feel overwhelmed. If someone offers help, take it. To delegate the work that needs to get done, make a list of tasks that you need others to help you accomplish. This may mean giving up some control over how things get done, but your health will benefit from it.
If your loved one can’t offer their thanks to you, imagine if they could. Allowing yourself to feel appreciated—even if it’s not said—can go a long way to motivate, inspire, and de-stress you. And don’t forget to reward yourself for the care you’re giving to others. Do small things for yourself when you can, like treating yourself to something nice. Take a break when you can, even if it’s just to get outside for a walk. Seek out supportive friends and family—people who make you feel good about yourself—when things get rough.
Everyone knows that eating well and exercise are key to staying healthy. This means eating fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grain fiber. It also means getting, at minimum, 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise a week. However, when you’re taking care of someone else and lack both time and energy, making these healthy choices can be difficult. But it’s very important to make time for your health. Not only will you feel better for it, but it will have a positive impact on your caregiving.
Be sure to see your doctor regularly for the preventive tests and checkups you need to keep yourself healthy.
Sometimes the best stress reliever is talking to others who are going through similar things or who have issues like yours. You might find the knowledge and advice you get from others in a support group valuable to you in creating patterns or habits in your own caregiving.
To get started, check out the following groups and organizations that can help you get the resources you need.
For additional online resources, visit the Help Guide now.
Remember, you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself. Getting the help you need can make you less stressed, healthier, and an overall better caregiver, so don’t wait.
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© 2016 HF Management Services, LLC.
Healthfirst is the brand name used for products and services provided by one or more of the Healthfirst group of affiliated companies.
This health information or program is for educational purposes only and not intended to treat, diagnose, or act as a substitute for medical advice from your provider. Consult your healthcare provider and always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions.
“Stepping Into Caregiving,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed October 3, 2016.
“Caregiver Stress and Burnout,” HelpGuide.org. Accessed October 3, 2016.