e know it's not easy. Between the constant stress, the feelings of guilt, and the exhaustion that comes with caring for someone else, it's easy to forget about your own needs. But you need to take care of yourself—and it's not selfish or indulgent!
Taking time for yourself is actually good for everyone involved in your caregiving relationship. Here are ten tips on how to do just that:
- Write in a journal. Start today by setting up your writing space and organizing your thoughts. Describe the fears that keep you from moving forward, but also celebrate any victories along the way—no matter how small they seem.
- Stick with your journal! Record the little victories and go back to review earlier years. Notice personal, physical, and emotional goals you and your loved one have achieved.
- Start a network of caregivers. Speak with other caregivers who can offer support or point you in the direction of resources that might help.
- Let your friends or family help! If someone asks “Can I do anything for you?” let that person help. He or she could run an errand or stay with your loved one while you take a break and get out on your own.
- Spend time with the people you love. You may find yourself having to ask friends and family members to come stay with you or keep you company while your loved one is undergoing treatment.
You need to be able to think about something other than your caregiving responsibilities, have interests outside of them, and maintain relationships with friends. You shouldn’t have to completely reinvent yourself when caring for someone else comes to an end.
- Stay involved in your loved one’s life. Be careful not to let your loved one slip from the role of family member, friend into that of patient. Don't lose the relationship you had prior to caregiving.
- Talk about it! No one is immune to fears, anxieties and doubts associated with illness or disease. Talk about these feelings with your friends and loved ones; by keeping them bottled up inside, you're only hurting yourself.
- Keep the romance alive. In a caregiving situation, couples can forget to nurture their relationship. Caregiving often creates strains in relationships that were never there before; the couple must learn how to balance their new responsibilities with maintaining intimacy and connection within the relationship.
- Involve your loved one in the changes you make. As time passes, we all change in small and big ways. If you find a new friend, discover an interest in a new genre of books or music—share these discoveries with your loved one you are caring for.
Introduce your loved one to new friends, and take turns visiting each other. Read the books together, listen to music or podcasts in which people talk about interesting topics.
- Keep setting goals! Before you became a caregiver, you set personal goals. Your life didn't end just because it's become your job to take care of someone else; instead, continue with the activities and interests that are important—and meaningful—to you.
We hope that you will take some of these tips and begin caring for yourself. Even if you just start with one of them, taking care of yourself while caring for your loved one is a great first step!