Taking care of yourself when you’re a caregiver can take a backseat sometimes.
After all, as a caregiver you might not only be taking care of an elderly loved one.
It is likely you are caring for younger dependents as well.
This can certainly put a lot of stress and strain on your body and affect your mental health.
However because most caregivers don’t want to feel like they’re not living up to their responsibilities, they are also likely to not prioritize their own self-care.
In fact, at least one in five Americans experiences a mental illness each year.
And the likelihood of these mental illnesses goes up the when there is more stress in a person’s life.
Here’s the reality: you cannot give the best care you can as a caregiver if you don’t take care of yourself.
It’s as simple as that.
So instead of feeling guilty about the whole thing, see caregiver self-care as as way to improve on your physical and mental health so you can take even better care of your loved ones.
7 Caregiver Self Care Tips For Your Mental Health
Most of us think about exercise when it’s time to lose weight. But exercise is good for more than that!
Exercise has long been known to release endorphins which interact with receptors in your brain that are responsible for giving you a sense of well-being.
Incorporating exercise into your day will also release tension in your muscles that builds up when we’re stressed.
Exercise will also help you get better sleep so you’re better rested.
#2- Take a day off
You probably think that taking a day off means you the world will fall apart, right?
Well, it might interest you to know that it is possible for you to take the day off and come back to find that things did not disintegrate.
Give yourself permission to take a day off. And go and do something that brings you joy.
Giving yourself at least one or two days per month where you go completely off-the-grid when it comes to your responsibilities will help you regain perspective and mental strength.
#3- Sleep more
We understand that caregiving sometimes requires that you wake up late at night to help your loved one.
This results in interrupted sleep.
The effects of interrupted sleep builds up over time and ultimately leads to fatigue, stress and mental health problems.
So as much as possible, try to get some sleep. Ask someone to hold down the fort for an hour or two so you can take a much needed nap.
#4- Set realistic goals
One of the reasons we get stressed out is because we have unmet expectations.
In the craziness of your day, it is likely you will not get everything on your to do list done.
Give yourself grace and realize that you are already doing a great job.
And this is where setting realistic goals comes into the picture.
#5- Talk to a therapist
Talking to a therapist does not have to be a last resort in your self care as a caregiver.
It can be an on-going practice that allows you to talk about challenges you’re facing.
Therapists are trained in helping you find solutions to these challenges because they cause mental trouble.
Journaling has been shown in research studies to be an effective way of helping people become self-aware of mental problems.
In this study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, researchers reported that participants who wrote down their emotions in response to a stressful event, were more likely to be more self-aware than other participants.
Becoming self-aware of your own emotions will help you in seeking the aid you need when you need it.
#7- Set healthy boundaries by saying “no”
Saying no, even when we should, is difficult for a lot of people.
It is however important that you’re able to say no to requests from friends and loved ones if it is going to put added stress on you.
A few people may find it rude at first, but if you make it clear that the demand they are asking of you simply does not work for you, you will actually gain the respect of people.
Learn to say no. Thank me later!
Mental Health Resources You Should Know About
Where can you find mental health resources?
- Your local city/town is likely to have free mental health resources you can take advantage of
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (Nami.org)
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline. You can call or chat with someone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 1-800-273-8255.
- If you’ve ever served in the Armed Forces, you can also take advantage of resources for veterans. Check out what is available to you at http://www.vetcenter.va.gov/.
- Find out if your local area has a support group for caregivers like yourself.
Your mental health as a caregiver is very important.
Make sure you’re not neglecting it in the process of taking care of everyone else.
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