These 8 tips can help you take care of yourself while you take care of a loved one.
Caring for a family member can be rewarding and stressful at the same time. On one hand, it provides you with a sense of purpose and the satisfaction of knowing you’re helping your loved one to stay as safe, healthy and comfortable as possible. But on the other hand, caregiving may be a 24/7 job that makes you feel isolated, frustrated and overwhelmed.
It’s easy to get so caught up in what you need to do for someone else when you’re a caregiver that you neglect your own physical and mental health. But although your days may be filled with a never-ending to-do list, you need to make yourself a priority. Otherwise you risk burnout.
Follow these tips to reduce stress and prevent burnout. They will help you feel better and will make you a better caregiver.
- Set realistic goals. Caregiving can put a lot of added pressure on top of other daily responsibilities – and it can be hard to do everything. So prioritize what absolutely needs to get done and cut yourself some slack on the rest.
- Find time for yourself. There’s always time to focus just on you. Spend at least 15 minutes a day doing something that helps you relax, de-stress and recharge – read a book, write in a journal, call a friend, enjoy a quiet cup of tea or take a walk.
- Prioritize your own health. Eat healthy, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and don’t skip your own doctor appointments or health screenings. Taking care of yourself is not a luxury – it’s a necessity.
- Stay connected. Even if you can’t get out of the house much due to caregiving responsibilities, stay connected to family and friends through phone, text, video chat or email.
- Share your feelings. It’s okay to feel stressed, angry or frustrated when you’re caregiving. Talk to someone you trust about your feelings and don’t feel guilty for how you feel.
- Find coping tools. Try to find the humor in your day and be realistic about what you can and cannot control. Have a stress-busting bag of tricks ready when you need it. Join a support group.
- Accept help. Identify people, such as other family members, neighbors, friends or professional caregivers, who can provide help when needed. Rely on others when there’s something else you have to do – or when you just feel like you need a break.
- Know your limits. Be honest with yourself about what you can and cannot handle. It’s better to ask for help or consider other forms of caregiving, whether temporary or permanent, than to risk burnout and put your own mental or physical health in jeopardy.
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Date Last Reviewed: September 23, 2020
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD