September is National Self-Care Month, and who is better deserving of self-care than those who dedicate their lives to taking care of others? Caregiving shows true love, devotion, and selflessness.
Caregivers often lose sight of their own well-being. But, caring for yourself is one of the most important things you can do as a caregiver. It’s so necessary to find ways caregivers can practice self-care so that they can better take care of those who depend them.
That’s why we’ve cultivated five of the best ways that caregivers can practice self-care to nourish and protect their physical, mental, and emotional health.
Caregiving Comes at a Risk
Caregivers often put their own health on the back burner to take care of others. In fact, many caregivers report sleep deprivation, a lack of exercise, and poor eating habits. Others postpone personal medical appointments to tend to a loved one.
Aside from the physical aspects, caregiving also comes at a mental and emotional toll. Caring for another is rewarding. On the other hand, being a caregiver can lead to worry, stress, and exhaustion.
Because of this, caregivers are at a much higher risk of chronic illnesses. Research has found that caregivers face health issues such as:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
Caregivers and care management professionals are also at a higher risk of mental health issues. Studies estimate that 40-70% of caregivers experience symptoms of depression, with some meeting the criteria for major depression.
Now is the time for caregivers to embrace self-care. Taking care of oneself is crucial in taking care of others.
Ways Caregivers Can Practice Self-Care
1. Get Plenty of Quality Sleep
Not getting enough sleep or not getting enough quality sleep has a huge impact on your overall well-being. Self-care starts with getting the sleep you need to wake up feeling rested and rejuvenated.
A 2014 study found that nighttime sleep impacts emotional reactivity, daytime mood, and the ability to regulate emotions.
Set a goal to get at least 7 hours of restful sleep each night. Start by creating and sticking with a nighttime routine that prepares your mind and body for sleep.
Simple things like keeping your bedroom cool, turning off the television, or listening to calming music can help you fall and stay asleep.
2. Eat a Wholesome, Balanced Diet
Some caregivers skip meals while others reach for unhealthy snacks to keep them fueled. Not giving your brain and body the proper nutrients while working in a high-stress environment is a recipe for disaster.
Eating a poor diet can make you feel sluggish and unable to focus. A poor diet can even increase stress and anxiety levels.
To boost your health, eat nourishing foods. Prepare meals ahead of time and pack nutrient-dense snacks. Eat plenty of wholesome foods such as:
- Lean proteins
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Low-fat dairy products
By eating healthy, you can give your brain and body the required nutrients to keep you operating at your fullest.
3. Get Outdoors
There’s nothing more calming and uplifting than sunshine on your face and fresh air. Spending time outdoors is one of the most convenient forms of self-care.
Head to a local park and take in the sights. Take in deep breaths of fresh air and slowly exhale all of your stress and worries.
Hearing, seeing, and smelling everything that nature has to offer keeps you grounded. Fresh air and being outside has also been linked to decreased stress and anxiety.
4. Better Manage Stress
Managing stress can feel impossible as a caregiver. Knowing how to recognize the warning signs early on can prevent you from becoming overwhelmed.
Common warning signs that you’re over-stressed include:
- Issues sleeping
If you’re experiencing these signs, take a step back and identify the cause. Is there too much on your plate? Do you feel inadequate in your caregiving?
Whatever the cause may be, remember that there are things outside of your control. Change what you can, but don’t dwell on changing things that you have no control over.
Most importantly, embrace stress-relieving activities. Yoga, breathing exercises, and meditation are great stress relievers. Even something as simple as spending time in a hot bath with your favorite book or music can do wonders.
5. Take Time Off
Everyone deserves a break, and caregivers are no exception. Planning a short weekend getaway can be greatly beneficial for your health, both mentally and physically. Self-care is all about doing what makes you feel good on the inside.
Though it can be hard to leave your family member in someone else’s care, taking time off allows you to unwind and reset. You don’t have to travel far. Find a local resort or destination that is just a few hours from home.
Spending time away provides much needed (and well deserved) rest and relaxation.
Make this September your month. Indulge a little and find ways to take off some of the weight you carry on your shoulders. Take the opportunity to make self-care a habit that you embrace daily.
Remember, taking care of yourself is the best way to provide the best care for your loved one.
If you are in need of any advice or support as you navigate the difficult landscape of caring for an older friend or family member, we at Reflections Management and Care would be happy to help you. Get in touch with us for more information.