Key Takeaways:

  • Self-care can prevent various health issues and burnout down the road.
  • The more I take care of myself, the better I will be able to care for others.
  • Self-care looks different for every caregiver. Do what works for you!

elf-care can be a foreign concept to caregivers, especially when you're caring for someone else. But it's incredibly important that you take care of yourself and your needs, too.

Why Is Self-Care Important for Caregivers?

Research shows that individuals who care for a chronically ill, disabled, or an elderly family member are at risk of developing emotional, mental, and physical health problems.

Caregiver experience higher levels of:

  • depression
  • stress
  • frustration
  • increased rates of physical ailments
  • diminished immune response
  • increased risk of cancer
  • increased risk of heart disease (Source: FCA).

In addition, due to the demands and stress of caregiving, oftentimes caregivers have to leave the workforce. This results in limited or poor access to healthcare. Which only exasperates caregiver's health.

Because of the many adverse effects that caregiving can have, taking time to take care of yourself is critical for your health. Self-care is vital for caregivers to combat these detrimental effects. Being intentional about your physical and mental well-being is critical!

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There Is No Right Way to Self-Care.

Self-care is the act of taking care of yourself. It can help you manage stress, improve your overall health, and make better decisions about the care of others.

Self-care includes things like getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and taking breaks from caregiving duties. But there is no one right way to take care of yourself. Self-care is an individual journey and that can mean different things to different people.

For some, physical activity is a big part of their self-care routine while others only find relief through meditation or deep breathing exercises. The most important thing is that you find what works for your own body and mind—and do it!

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It’s Okay to Take a Break.

It’s true that you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself first. And sometimes that means taking a break from caregiving. That's where respite care comes in.

Respite care is a temporary relief for the family caregiver who is caring for a loved one. It's also called "home care," and it can be provided by a family member, friend, or paid caregiver.

Taking a break from caregiving is okay. It's okay to take a day off, or even a week off. You don't have to feel guilty about it. Respite care can be a great way to make sure you're getting the help you need and deserve.

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Keep a Positive Outlook.

The caregiving profession can be difficult, but it's also incredibly rewarding. It's important to remember that, and to take time to appreciate the little things.

One way to do that is by keeping a positive outlook. In fact, staying positive can have a huge impact on your health and happiness. Research shows that people with chronic illnesses are more likely to recover if they have a positive attitude about their situation!

When you're feeling down or stressed, try putting on some upbeat music, or reading an inspiring article. Even just taking a walk around your neighborhood can help you feel better!

Another way to keep spirits high is by laughing. Laughter really is the best medicine. It helps relieve stress and tension in our bodies, and it boosts our moods. So make sure you're spending time with people who make you laugh, and watch videos on YouTube or TV that make you chuckle.

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Navigating Difficult Seasons.

As we talk about self-care, it is important to  note the season where caregivers health and well-being can take a huge hit. During the holiday season.

Perhaps you feel that the holidays are no longer the same because of changes in your loved one's health. Or as your loved one’s health declines, you may find yourself unable to perform the traditions that had been important in your family. You're not alone. For many people, the holiday season can be one of the most difficult times of the year.

In fact, in 2014 NAMI found that 64% of people with mental illness say the holidays make their conditions worse. A 2021 survey showed that 3 in 5 Americans feel their mental health is negatively impacted by the holidays (Source: NAMI).

So if you find yourself feeling anxious during the holidays, remember that many other people are in the same boat. Self-care is always important, but it's especially important during the holidays when everything feels like it's more stressful than usual.

Take some time alone every day—even if it's just five minutes—to do something that makes you feel good.

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Stay Informed.

Another way to practice self-care is to stay educated and informed. Be sure to learn all you can about the specific needs and situation of your loved one. Do not be afraid to ask any questions that arise during conversations with their healthcare providers.

I've heard it said that "information is power," and I believe that to be true. One of the best ways to stay healthy is to keep yourself informed! 

Stay informed with the latest caregiving strategies:

Just Starting Out?

You're just starting out as a caregiver and you're not sure what to do or where to start. You've heard that self care is important, but you don't know how to fit it in.

There are resources for self care that are specific to caregivers, so you don't have to feel guilty about taking time for yourself.

And they can be pretty easy to incorporate into your routine!

Resources for first-time caregivers:

The better you take care of yourself, the more you will be able to care for others.

Self-care is not self indulgence. It is vital for your mental and physical health! So, what are you going to do today? Take a deep breath, give yourself the time you need to care for your loved ones and yourself.

Oct 12, 2022