Caregivers Need TLC, Too
Caring takes its toll -- according to The Guardian, caregivers are twice as likely as the rest of the population to suffer from a long-term illness or disability. As a caregiver, you’re often working long hours, almost always on call and under a lot of stress. You might feel like there just isn’t enough time left in your life for yourself, but it’s really important that you make that time. Here are a few ways you can care for yourself when you’re feeling stressed.
Learn Stress Relief Techniques
In terms of your overall health, stress is like a linchpin that increases your risk of many other conditions. According to Everyday Health, stress can triggerdepression, anxiety, colds, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other illnesses. It’s important to keep stress in check with effective stress-reduction techniques.
Meditation is a great option. Usually, you would try to meditate for 15-20 minutes, but if you’re really busy just break it up -- try the three-minute breathing space whenever you feel stress building up. Another useful tool is 4-7-8 breathing-- breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7, then exhale for 7 seconds. Follow this breathing pattern for a minute or two whenever you feel stressed or anxious.
If stress is a linchpin for illness, exercise is a linchpin for health. Exercise can improve symptoms of a huge number of physical and mental health problems including high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and stress. However, it can be hard to find time to exercise, especially when you factor in getting changed, traveling to the gym and showering afterward. If this sounds like your situation, you can still get the benefits of exercise by doing shorter sessions. Every little helps -- just get up 10 minutes earlier than usual and do a quick workout before your morning shower. Fitness magazine has a good selection here, and you’ll find many more on YouTube.
Eat a Healthy Diet
It’s a sad truth that fast food tends to be unhealthy. When you’re tired and busy, it’s really tempting to head for a drive-through, order in, or microwave a TV dinner. Ultimately, this is going to have negative health consequences. To fix this, start by aiming for healthier fast food outlets, or at least start choosing the healthier options on the menu. CBS has a good guide on this here.
Try to move away from fast food and toward healthy meals you eat at home. Most supermarkets healthy soups and salads and smoothies, which are healthy ways to get nutrients in quickly. Also, whenever you do get time to prepare food yourself, cook an extra large batch and use it up over the next few days.
Avoid Negative Coping Methods
A negative coping method is one that removes stress in the short-term, but cause greater health problems in the long-run. The prime culprits include alcohol, recreational drugs and tobacco products. The lure of these negative methods provides temporary relief, however further down the line you will end up with more problems to deal with due to the health conditions that such substances bring.
On the other hand, positive coping methods such as meditation, slow breathing or exercise also provide immediate relief, however these methods will actually improve your health over time.
Take Time for Yourself
Even though you’re pressured, it’s important to take some time out for yourself. Try to arrange cover at least once a week so that you can spend time with friends and pursue your own hobbies. And during those busy days when you are caring, don’t forget to take those precious few minutes out to reduce your stress, exercise, and improve your diet. Not only will this improve your own health, but you’ll be a more effective caregiver, too.
Harry Cline is creator of NewCaregiver.org and author of the upcoming book, The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers. As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support.