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5 Self-Care Tips for Caregivers

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While caring for an aging or ailing loved one is often rewarding, it can also be overwhelming, especially if you feel that you have little control.

Given your current situation, you may struggle to find balance when it comes to caring, working and other responsibilities. 

If you’re experiencing feelings of physical, mental or emotional exhaustion, it’s time to take a step back and focus on yourself. When you care for your personal health and happiness, the person you care for will benefit, too.

To help you practice self-care amid the stress of everyday life, we identify tips for family caregivers to exercise below.

1. Ask for help with caregiver responsibilities. 

The first step in practicing self-care is recognizing when you need to take a break from caregiver responsibilities. If you can identify the signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout, then ask for and accept help when offered. Use your personal network of close family members and friends to help you maintain your own well being in trying times.

Look for areas where you can take a step back—like driving your loved one to and from appointments. You don’t have to give up all responsibilities, but you do need to schedule breaks.

So whether it’s reading a new book, cooking a favorite recipe or going to the spa, it’s important to plan an activity for yourself that you enjoy from time to time.

2. Communicate your needs in a constructive manner.

Caregiving involves much more than just the physical tasks of looking after another person. It requires open and honest communication between you and your loved one, as well as family members and friends.

To help you effectively express your needs with others, take a moment to reflect. Get all of your thoughts and feelings out on paper before sharing with others. Don’t worry about making sense. Just start writing things down on paper and don’t stop until you feel a sense of relief. Some things to consider as you write:

  • How are you feeling?
  • What challenges and concerns do you have?
  • Are you getting the help you need to effectively care for your loved one?
  • Are you struggling to manage work-life balance?
  • In what areas do you need more help?

Once you have your thoughts down on paper, talk to your close family members and friends. While not always easy to do, having these conversations ensures your voice is heard. Furthermore, knowing how to express your feelings is one of the most important facets of self-care. 

3. Forgive yourself for the things you can’t control.

Caregiving involves a range of emotions. While some days you feel hopeful, other days you may feel helpless. Forgive yourself—often.

When you try to fix things out of your control, you will only increase your sense of frustration. At times, these feelings form personal barriers, keeping you from taking care of yourself.

To prevent unwarranted stress, identify the areas you can control. Caregiving can be all-consuming, so maintaining your personal health is critical to self-care. 

On the contrary, there are areas outside of your control. When dealing with an uncontrollable situation—like a progressive disease or illness—remember to keep your attention on the things you can control. Reflecting on the fact that you get to spend ample time with your loved one in their final months and years can help you remain positive.

For caregivers who get overwhelmed easily, an important self-care tip to practice is learning how to see the glass half full, rather than half empty.

4. Take care of your health and happiness. 

What makes you happy? Perhaps, you enjoy spending time with family members and friends. Or, reading a book or watching a movie. Whatever it is, take some time each day to do something for you, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Practicing self-care allows family caregivers to remain more balanced and focused, which helps everyone involved. It also sets a good example for your loved one to follow.

In addition to doing something for yourself, maintain proper eating, drinking, sleeping and exercising schedules. Focusing on these areas helps prevent exhaustion during long hours.

Remember to do the following every day: 

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Eat nutritious meals.
  • Get the recommended hours of sleep.
  • Practice meditation.
  • Use affirmations.

Being kind to yourself builds the foundation of self-care. This means giving yourself credit for the care you provide.

5. Maintain connections with the people who matter most. 

In the face of family caregiving, it isn’t always easy to keep up with prior activities and engagements. But, it’s important to maintain social connections to prevent feelings of isolation.

Spending time with close family members and friends helps to refresh and recharge your batteries, so you can continue to meet daily obligations. They also provide emotional support when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

To help you maintain a healthy social life, consider the following activities:

  • Create a book club.
  • Meet a friend for dinner or drinks.
  • Take a cooking or painting class.
  • Join a gym.
  • Plan a date night with your significant other.

As always, remember to plan ahead, so these activities don’t get pushed to the wayside. It’s important for family caregivers to be able to take time off without feeling guilty.

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Family caregivers do so much and expect so little in return. That’s why we created our  Caregiver Guide to help you navigate each stage with ease. Discover information to help provide the highest quality of care for your loved ones.

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Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2018, and has been updated for 2020.

Cathy Nichols
Cathy Nichols
Considers it an honor as a Certified Celebrant to listen to life stories, and then design and conduct meaningful tributes. Cathy also trains celebrants nationally, equipping them to share those legacies in ways that comfort and enlighten. Honorably serving Busch families since 2004.

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