By Danielle Terpstra, MS, EP-C, Wellness Consultant, AllOne Health
Caregiving provides an important source of emotional and physical support and companionship for care recipients.
It can also be incredibly fulfilling. But at the same time, the pressure of caring for another person often presents difficult experiences for the caregiver. Time constraints and burnout often result in a lack of self-compassion, which can result in a downward spiral of reduced care quality and health issues for the caregiver.
Paying attention to one’s own confidence, emotional capacity, and physical health can result in a healthier experience for everyone involved.
Whether you are caring for an aging family member, a child with special needs, or providing care in another capacity, it is important to take care of yourself. Try the following tips to ensure your own proverbial oxygen mask is securely in place:
Caring for your physical health
Fitness often gets put on the back burner when schedules are full when it should be a top priority, considering it can boost energy, mood, cognitive function, and even the ability to provide physical care.
So, how do you fit physical activity in when there are already too few hours in the day?
- Consider your space. Are you stuck in one spot most of the day? Consider creative ways to make your space work for you by utilizing free weights, under-table treadmills, cycle ergometers, or using countertops as stabilizers while you do leg lifts.
- Add functional movement to the time spent with your care recipient. If you push a wheelchair or stroller, try to bring your care recipient outdoors, if safe. Consider dancing with them! If the care recipient is a young child who can safely be lifted, use the time to bond and hold them while you practice yoga or other fitness activities.
- Manage your time outside of caregiving wisely. Consider the time spent on devices or behind another screen and whether you can use that time in ways that involve movement and self-care.
- Prepare healthy foods for yourself. If you are in the kitchen anyway, try to prepare healthy options for yourself and the person you are caring for. Pack lunches for busy days so you do not find yourself stopping for fast food while you are out. Yes, it takes time, but so does swinging through the drive-through! Your body and mind require nourishing food to perform their best!
Caring for your mental and emotional health
During turbulent times, many caregivers move into “survival mode,” that place where they simply exist to check items off a list rather than considering their own needs. When mental and emotional needs are pushed aside, health issues are ignored and can carry large implications. Try the following to check in with yourself:
- Practice mindfulness. This might be as simple as pausing to breathe after parking your car. Notice your breath, posture, and mindset.
- Journal. Journaling does not need to be a lengthy process. It could replace five minutes of scrolling on your phone each night. Try using guided topics related to checking in with your physical, mental, and emotional state, and calling to mind ways you can nurture each.
- Control what you can and let go of the rest. Easier said than done, right? Keep in mind that you can only control your personal thoughts, words, and reactions. Practice self-compassion by releasing burdens that are not yours to carry.
Check out the many options available to you through your Assistance Program and Wellness services. You don’t have to do this alone—our experienced professionals are here to help.
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