Every airplane traveler hears the same refrain whenever they take a flight. In case of an emergency, always put on your own oxygen mask before helping another passenger. It’s the same when you’re a caregiver, caring for a loved one with a debilitating condition. To take care of others, you first need to take care of yourself.
Unfortunately, caregivers often forget their own needs. They’re so busy taking care of their loved one, they don’t eat right, don’t find time to exercise, and suffer from lack of sleep. They simply ignore their own health. This can lead not only physical health issues, but also mental and emotional health concerns, such as depression and anxiety.
Here are some ways caregivers can nurture themselves:
- Give yourself a break – If you can afford to hire someone to help you take care of your loved one so you can get time to yourself, do it! If that’s not possible, try to find a family member or friend who can help you out.
- Get emotional support from others – Talk to a friend or friend if you’re suffering from stress or anxiety about your caregiving responsibilities. If needed, find a support group – ask a medical professional or find one online.
- Take care of yourself physically – Eat healthy foods, walk or do some other form of exercise. Exercise will help manage stress and the “blues.”
- Don’t forget your own doctor visits to keep up with your own health and wellness needs.
- Don’t try to everything alone! You may need to delegate tasks to other family members, especially if you work outside the home. Check into services that are offered in your community.
The HelpGuide website provides some great options and food for thought about caregiving in this article.
The Cancer.net website also points out that if stress and anxiety become overwhelming, you should seek professional help. The article, How Caregivers Can Take Care of Themselves, describes symptoms of depression and anxiety and how to manage these conditions.
This article from the Mayo Clinic website, Caregiver Stress: Tips for Taking Care of Yourself, also talks about respite care options.