If you’ve ever been on an airplane, you know the flight attendant’s spiel on what to do in the state of emergency and that one famous line, “put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.”
This goes against the instinct of many people, especially those who have taken care of a loved one.
If you are a caregiver for a loved one who is suffering from illness like a stroke, you may feel a constant need to take care of every one of their needs before tending to your own, metaphorically putting on their oxygen mask first.
The problem with this is eventually, you yourself, might “run out of air,” and you may no longer have the stamina to be of value to your loved one if you don’t take care of yourself first.
Below are a few ways that you can take care of yourself so you can be the best caregiver for your loved one.
Start with Taking Care of Your Body
If you don’t take care of yourself by getting a proper amount of sleep, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough exercise, you will cause your body to exhibit physical symptoms.
Not paying attention to what your body needs can lead to increased inflammation in your body, which increases your pain level and can limit your ability to get around.
Also, not taking care of your body can make you more likely to get sick, as it lowers your immunity. Getting 6-8 hours of sleep, eating healthy foods, and taking at least a 20-minute walk every day can make a big difference.
Accept Help – Don’t be Proud!
If someone offers to bring you dinner, sit with your loved one, take him or her to an appointment, or do something else for you, then let them. Accepting help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength.
Don’t just accept help. Seek it. Respite care and in-home care are often covered by insurance, so take advantage of a much-needed break and recharge.
Find Ways to Reduce Stress
Taking care of someone else is stressful by itself, but when you throw health issues into the mix, it exacerbates the stress as you may feel the need to be constantly on-call.
Learn how to relax using deep breathing. Often times being told to take a few deep breaths can feel like a cop-out answer, but taking a few minutes to just focus on your breath and letting go of a bit of stress with each exhale can go a long way.
Establish a Support System if that’s Feasible
Join a caregiver support group or get together with a group of trustworthy friends. Talking about your issues can take some of the stress off your shoulders and give you an outlet. Also, some people in the support system may be able to lend a helping hand.
Be Kind to Yourself – You Deserve It!
Do not beat yourself up when you decide to take a nap or go to the store while leaving your loved one with another caregiver. You need time away to restore your energy. If you are doing the best you can, that is good enough. Allow yourself to not always be perfect.
The Importance of Not Feeling Guilty When You Take Time for Yourself
THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT! The experience of caregiving can be an all-encompassing one. If you are not careful, it will suck every bit of energy from you physically and mentally. That is why it is so important to take some time for yourself and not feel guilty. Go get a pedicure, take a yoga class, go out to dinner, sleep at your home, or go out with friends. Whatever you like to do and did prior to your caregiving period.
Even a few hours can make a big difference in your outlook on life and help prevent burnout. Take time out for yourself and do it without guilt. Caring for someone else is difficult, but if you don’t take care of yourself, who will?
Taking care of a family member, or a good friend who has had a stroke or other debilitating disease can be difficult, tiring, and stressful. And you can easily tire from the responsibility. But by following some of these tips, you can practice the self-care needed to put your best foot forward as a caregiver. Even if it means putting it in front of theirs.
Remember, if you burn out you are hurting both yourself, and the person you are trying to assist. And that would be a darn shame!
Photo Credit: Pixabay.com
Author Bio: Christian Worstell, living in Raleigh, NC is a freelance writer who covers health and lifestyle topics for a range of blogs and media outlets. When he’s not behind the desk, he can usually be found on a golf course or spending time with his family.