As caregivers, our lives are often consumed by our commitment to care for others. While this work can be meaningful and fulfilling, it can also compromise management of our own personal needs. Exhaustion, prolonged stress and burnout all start to occur as a result of self-neglect and can affect your ability to care for your loved one.
February may have reminded us to share our love with others, but our En Su Casa family has been promoting a slightly different theme of self-love this month. You may have heard the sayings, “you can’t set yourself on fire to keep others warm,” or “you can’t pour from an empty cup” – this holds true for the practice of caregiving.
Remembering to take time for one’s self is not selfish – it’s healthy and it holds the key to working a long, happy career as a caregiver. And once you take the time to address your needs, you can better care for your loved one. Here are some quick tips to help you get started!
Make time for deliberate rest – Ensure you are at taking 20-30 minute breaks at least once or twice a day. During breaks and your time off on weekends, do activities that are unrelated to work and that bring leisure, such as reading, painting or going to the movies. It’s tempting to tune out with the television, but try to partake in activities that keep your mind engaged.
Get active and spend time outdoors – While this may seem exhausting after a day of caregiving, a consistent workout routine can boost energy levels and your mood. Aim for at least 20-30 minutes of moderate activity three times a week. Weather permitting, doing your exercise outdoors can provide additional benefit and assist in maintaining healthy vitamin D levels – just don’t forget the sunscreen!
Adopt a balanced diet – Similar to adopting a good workout regimen, a balanced diet can also contribute to boosting your mood and energy. Eating fast foods and unhealthy snacks while on the go can make you feel lethargic and will have adverse effects on your health over time. Consuming meals with a balance of clean proteins (chicken breast, turkey, tofu, salmon) and micronutrients (broccoli, asparagus, spinach, carrots) will help you have a clear, sharp mind and power through your day.
Rest and recharge – We touched on deliberate rest earlier, but an equally important practice is to get enough sleep. Aim for 7-9 hours per night and try to incorporate a morning routine, such as light stretching or meditation, to ease you back in to wakefulness. Accomplishing this can keep your energy levels strong throughout the day and fend off brain fog.
Socialize with friends and family – Caregivers often tend to isolate themselves when feeling extreme stress and exhaustion, causing them to lose touch with friends and family. Maintaining these relationships is beneficial to your mental health and provides a great outlet for conversation. We all need support systems and surrounding ourselves with those who care can prevent depression and loneliness.
Treat yourself – Every now and then, it’s good to reward yourself for all the care you give to others. Taking a long milk bath at the end of a hard day, getting a massage, or treating yourself to a nice dinner can all provide a sense of satisfaction and release that will help prevent burnout.