5 Ways to Take Care of Yourself as a Caregiver
If you have ever flown in an airplane, you may be familiar with this safety instruction.
“In the event of an emergency, oxygen masks will drop in front of you. Please put on your masks first before attempting to help anyone else.”
Even if you’ve never been on an airplane, you’ve probably heard this before
It seems like an easy instruction to follow, but it’s not that simple for everyone. Those who care about others are prone to disobey this instruction wishing to put their loved ones’ safety first. Take parents, for example. In most cases, they want to put the mask on their children before putting it on themselves. These self-sacrificing people are the reason that airlines make the announcement in the first place.
While this is a beautiful expression of affection it’s also dangerous. A father may pass out from a lack of oxygen before securing his child’s mask. Both the parent and the child are at risk if this occurs. Beyond the confines of an airplane, there are some obvious parallels with other areas of life. One of the areas where this wisdom applied the most is caregiving.
Let’s zoom in on this for a moment and see how this information can help those responsible for caring for others.
The Importance of Taking Care of Yourself
Caring for others can be a gratifying experience. Being there for a loved one when they need you is a core value and something most caregivers want to do. Whether you are caring for a child or children, an elderly family member, or someone with a chronic disease or disability, the perils of caregiving are universal.
Caregiving can take a toll on your physical and emotional well-being. Stress afflicts most caregivers and leads to burnout. Over time, a caregiver’s health may deteriorate, and their joy diminishes. What can we do to prevent this?
Remember the airplane safety instruction: “First help yourself, then help others.”? We can only be effective in helping others if we first help ourselves. An important—and often overlooked — thing caregivers can do is to take care of themselves. Neglecting to do so will only hurt everyone in the long run.
Five things caregivers can do to ensure that they are caring for themselves as they do for others:
- Practice self-compassion. The basis for self-care is being kind to oneself. Give yourself credit for handling the hard tasks. Often people are very critical of their own efforts and fail to recognize the difficulty of the things they have accomplished. Give yourself a pat on the back and recognition for all you do. Give yourself time, if it’s even a few minutes a day, to care for yourself.
- You might feel guilty as you practice self-care. If that happens, remember that when you do this, you can focus and be more productive. The better you feel, the better job you can do. That ends up benefitting the one you’re caring for as well as yourself.
- Give yourself needed space and time. No matter how much you love to be of service, know that everyone has a limit. Don’t succumb to burnout by forgetting about your personal needs.
- When you need to unwind, take a break. A real one, not just going to the bathroom with the door closed. Take a walk, do a quick guided meditation, write a gratitude journal entry, do some yoga poses. Whatever gives you space and grace.
- This is even more important when the person you are caring for has a chronic or terminal illness. Dealing with this can be difficult. You may experience an emotional drain because of your attachment to the sick one. It’s crucial to find ways to refill.
- For example, taking deep breaths helps us relax. Why not incorporate a conscious breathing practice into your routine?
- When you take time for yourself, you become more attentive to your needs. Once you know these, you can fulfill them. In the end, you’ll end up happier, as will those you care for.
- Set goals to keep healthy. Caregivers who are sick cannot carry out their duties. You must be in top physical condition to perform at your best. This is another key part of self-care. How can you look after yourself? Set goals for yourself to stay healthy.
- Getting a good night’s sleep could be one of them. Also, stay active by exercising daily. You will reap rewards that will last a lifetime if you can do so for only ten minutes.
- Finally, have regular checkups. Professional advice may help point out areas of your health that need care. Our health is vital to our happiness. When we look after it, we can perform better.
- Engage in enjoyable leisure activities. Reading a good book or taking a warm bath are examples of pleasant leisure activities. When you are a caregiver, remember that it is not wrong to focus on your own wants and desires.
- Find activities aside from work you’ll enjoy and take part in them. This can ease the stress you might experience while giving care.
- Maintain social connections. Another way to practice self-care is to keep connected. If you don’t have the company of friends or family to enjoy, you could find a support group. There may be one for caregivers or parents in your community.
- Keep open channels of communication with your family or friends. Share your feelings and the challenges you face. The support they give can aid you if you have any challenges. It can even prevent you from burning out.
You might work as a professional caregiver or be caring for loved ones. Remember that your dedicated efforts can exhaust you. Taking steps to recharge your batteries is only prudent. You need to look after yourself to enable you to look after those you care for. Self-care will keep you healthy and happy. It will ensure that your loved ones receive the attention they need. And it will give you the needed energy to carry on with your important work.