Four Steps to Emotional Wellness
Caregivers Must Understand the Importance of Self-care
By A Place for Mom
Being a caregiver for a parent or senior loved one can be a full-time job, leaving little opportunity for anything else, including your own self-care. However, self-care is essential, benefitings not only you, but the loved one you are caring for as well.
Many people who find themselves in the role of caregiver experience feelings of guilt for wanting (and needing) time for themselves; however, the necessity for self-care is sometimes compared with that of applying your own oxygen mask on an airplane before assisting anyone else. Only when we first help ourselves can we effectively help others.
Self-care is an essential and necessary part of the process of providing care that benefits not only you but the person you are caring for as well. After all, you cannot pour from an empty cup.
While providing care can be very rewarding and satisfying, it can also be exhausting, with many caregivers reporting personal health issues including depression; excessive use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs; failure to exercise; failure to stay in bed when ill; poor eating habits; postponement of (or failure to make) medical appointments; and sleep deprivation.
“Self-care is an essential and necessary part of the process of providing care that benefits not only you but the person you are caring for as well. After all, you cannot pour from an empty cup.”
To combat these possible issues and live your best life possible while providing care for a loved one, consider adopting the following restorative practices for a healthy body, mind, and soul:
Eat a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is important, not just for your physical health, but your emotional health as well. In the short term, enjoying a diet of nutritious and well-balanced meals can help to increase energy and reduce sluggishness, while in the long-term, eating well can reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on your mental health and cause a ripple effect of negative emotions and thoughts. Your body needs seven to eight hours of restorative sleep each night for optimal health. Try implementing a predictable and regular bedtime routine to coax your body into a relaxing slumber, including limiting mobile devices or tablets two hours before bed; sleeping in a cool, dark room; and wearing comfortable pajamas.
Get Regular Exercise
Exercise promotes better sleep, reduces depression and tension, and increases alertness and energy. Although finding the motivation and time to exercise, especially in the beginning, may be a struggle, small steps will add up. Try walking for 20 minutes a day, three days a week to experience the full benefits of exercise.
Make Time for Hobbies
Taking a break from caregiving to reinvest in activities and hobbies you enjoy will help to reinvigorate you and remind you of who you are, outside of being a caregiver. Accepting help from family, friends, and professionals to reinvest in yourself may be difficult, but the reward of getting reacquainted with yourself and rediscovering what brings you happiness and peace will allow you to be the best caregiver you can be.