When we’re very busy taking care of other people, it’s easy to overlook the need to take care of ourselves. But self-care is vitally important for making sure you’re up to the challenges of being a caregiver. In order to be there for your loved ones and handle all your responsibilities, you need to keep up your health and energy levels. Here are some tips for making time for yourself in your everyday life.
We function better when all our basic needs are being met. That means getting enough rest, eating a healthy diet, and getting plenty of healthy exercise. Improve your time management skills by going to bed and rising at the same time each day. You’ll improve your immune function and your task performance, as well as improving your mood and decreasing your stress levels. Studies show that people who eat a balanced healthy diet experience less stress, improved cognitive function, and longer lifespans. Getting regular physical exercise will help you to maintain strength and good health and will even raise your energy levels. So try going for a walk or scheduling a yoga class. You should get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five days each week. If time is an issue, break up your routine into shorter 10-minute intervals throughout the day because exercise is just as effective in smaller doses.
Make Time to Recharge
Schedule some time during the week that’s all yours, to do something that you really love. Treat this “me” time as non-optional because it isn’t. Hobbies give us a sense of pride in personal accomplishment and are a natural outlet for de-stressing our lives. Spending a half hour knitting, journalling, or reading a favorite book will improve your better mental state and mood. Try to engage your senses every day by surrounding yourself with beauty. Take a walk in the forest, spend some time in the garden, and get out in green space and drink in nature’s wonder. Studies show that even half an hour of activity in green spaces create a marked improvement in cognitive function and mood. Living in a green natural environment actually extends your lifespan, so take some nature therapy to recharge your emotional batteries.
Have a Life
This one’s obvious, but we sometimes forget it. Your days as a caretaker will not last forever. You need to maintain relationships and connections in the world outside. Set aside a half hour a week to see friends and talk to people about something other than your caregiving situation. Join a book club or a church group or volunteer at a charity. The point is to maintain social ties that have nothing to do with your role as a caregiver, and to give you time to step away from your responsibilities. Build a support system, so you have people to turn to. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and know your rights. If you’re working, talk to your employer about family and medical leave.
In order to meet the daily challenges of caring for someone who is ill, you have to prioritize your own wellness. Don’t shortchange either of you by allowing your own needs to go neglected. Keeping yourself healthy and your life balanced will enable you to be there every day, doing what needs to be done. Think of it this way: Every thing you to do promote your own health and happiness enables you to create health and happiness for the people you love. Isn’t that worth spending a bit of time on?
Harry Cline is creator of NewCaregiver.org and author of the upcoming book, The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers. As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support.