At some point during your life, you are likely to become the primary caregiver for someone else. This situation is common in marriages, but retirees often find themselves caring for aging parents, siblings, or friends as well. And while you may view caregiving as your duty, the truth is that providing round-the-clock care for another person can put your own emotional and physical health at risk, too.
If you’ve taken on the caregiving role for another person in your life, follow these ten steps to prevent burnout and take care of your own health.
Eat well. Don’t skip meals, and resist the urge to grab quick foods that are lacking in nutritional value. Provide your body with nutritionally dense meals and snacks.
Get adequate sleep. This is easier said than done, but it’s of critical importance. If there is one time to schedule back-up care, it’s during your sleeping hours above all else.
Focus on small tasks. When you feel overwhelmed, focus on completing one task that will offer a sense of accomplishment. It could be something as simple as getting the laundry under control.
Laughter is the best medicine. Invite laughter into your life, in any way possible. Watch a funny movie, turn on your favorite late-night show, or simply invite a jovial friend over for coffee.
Mind your social life. It’s not easy to maintain a social life when you’re providing care. If you can’t get out of the house, that’s okay; invite a friend over, return phone calls when you can, and utilize Facebook when all else fails. It’s important to feel connected to the outside world.
Exercise. Fit in exercise any way possible. Take your loved one for a walk, if they’re able. If not, invest in a treadmill or stationary bike that you can use in the home.
Go outside. Sometimes, simply sitting on the porch and enjoying the sunshine can reinvigorate and recharge.
Relax. Identify activities that are relaxing for you, and use them to de-stress when needed. Something as simple as using a coloring book (yes, really) can do the trick. Other people enjoy Sudoku, crossword puzzles, reading, yoga, or meditation.
Say no. Learn to say no to outside requests and invitations when needed, and don’t give in to guilt or pressure. You can’t always do everything that is asked of you, and that’s okay.
Attend your own medical appointments. Don’t neglect your own health checkups; they’re more necessary now than ever. Remember that emotional health is important too, and ask for a referral to a mental health counselor so that you can receive the support you need at this time.