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Ways to Help Yourself

Last week, we spoke on Informational and Professional support, Personal and Family support, Public and Financial support, and Effective communication.  And how as a caregiver, it is just as important to take care of yourself.  This includes caring for your health, your body, and your relationships.

Caring for your health & body:

You may feel too busy or worried about your loved one to think about your own health.  It’s common for caregivers to have sleep problems, headaches, and anxiety, along with other changes. But if you take care of yourself, you can lower your stress. Then you can have the strength to take care of someone else. If you had health problems before you became a caregiver, it’s even more important to take care of yourself.  Be sure to tell your doctor if you notice any new changes in your body.

Keep up with your own health needs and try to:

■ Go to all your checkups.
■ Take your medicines.
■ Eat healthy meals.
■ Get enough rest.
■ Exercise.
■ Make time to relax.

These ideas may sound easy, but they can be hard for most caregivers. Try to pay attention to how your body and your mind are feeling.  Your health depends on it.

Concern for your relationships:

Nearly all caregivers and their partners feel more stress than usual in their relationship. Dealing with the many decisions and changes can be hard. Some couples find that their bonds get stronger during this time, and others find they get weaker.  Some of the common issues couples feel stress about are:

■ How to support each other
■ Changing roles and routines
■ Making decisions
■ Managing daily life such as work, chores, and child care

To reduce stress, it may help to remind yourself that everyone handles things in their own way. Try to be open with your significant other about stress and its causes.

You may want to:

  • Share how you are each coping.
  • Talk about how each of you feel.
  • Look at things that are causing you both stress.
  • Talk about choices you can make together.
  • Try to be grateful for each other.

Make time to focus on things besides the responsibilities of being a caregiver.  Staying close is also about sharing feelings and understanding. You can:

  • Talk about closeness and your sex life.
  • Talk about your hopes for the future.
  • Try not to judge each other.
  • Protect your time together.
  • Be patient and take things slowly.
  • Talk to a counselor or your support group.

Summing up, remember, it is not selfish to focus on your own needs and desires when you are a caregiver—it’s an important part of the job. You are responsible for your own self-care. Focusing on the following self-care practices could help:

  • Learn and use stress-reduction techniques, e.g. meditation, prayer, yoga, Tai Chi.
  • Attend to your own healthcare needs.
  • Get proper rest and nutrition.
  • Exercise regularly, if only for 10 minutes at a time.
  • Take time off without feeling guilty.
  • Participate in pleasant, nurturing activities, such as reading a good book, taking a warm bath.
  • Seek and accept the support of others.
  • Seek supportive counseling when you need it.
  • Change the negative ways you may view situations, and set positive goals.

It’s up to you!

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