If you are a caregiver, it may feel like weight of the world is sitting on your shoulders.
The Family Caregiver Alliance notes that caregiving spouses between the ages of 66 and 96 who experience mental or emotional strain have a risk of dying that is 63 percent higher than for similarly aged people who are not caregivers. For younger caregivers—like those responsible for their aging parents—prolonged stress has similarly detrimental consequences on a person’s health and well-being.
That is why self-care is so important for caregivers. It prevents burnout and reduces the likelihood of you feeling resentful toward your loved ones over the position you are in. Nobody has to become a martyr for a family member because there are strategies to help. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Know when to delegate your responsibilities.
As a caregiver, the responsibility of making sure everything gets done may fall to you, but that doesn’t mean that you need to be the person who does everything. Effective business leaders know when to delegate tasks, and you should, too. Mayo Clinic recommends divying out chores to other family members. You can also hire help for some of your household maintenance. These can be tasks specifically related to caregiving for your loved one, or they can be personal things you simply don’t have the time or capacity for because of your caregiving responsibilities. Hire a dog walker or use a laundry service. Outsourcing just a few things can help your day-to-day stress level tremendously. Don’t feel guilty about delegating tasks. Remember: A less stressed you is better for everyone.
Be on the lookout for signs of burnout.
Being a caregiver can come with undue amounts of stress. Caregivers constantly have to juggle their role as caregiver with the role of spouse, parent, daughter, or other loved one. Resources can be a challenge, and realistic expectations can be difficult to set. It’s a lot to deal with, and it’s okay to feel overwhelmed sometimes. You can (and should) acknowledge that. However, what isn’t okay is burnout and depression. Be on the lookout for signs of these because you want to address them as soon as they arise. According to the Cleveland Clinic, signs include emotional and physical exhaustion, changes in appetite or weight, loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed, and withdrawal from friends, family, and other loved ones. When you notice these symptoms—or if someone points the out to you—take a step back and evaluate how to get yourself to a better, healthier place. You may want to talk to a close confidant. You could seek professional help or camaraderie in the form of a support group designed for caregivers. Whatever you do, just don’t ignore the problem.
Take regular breaks and put yourself first.
Make the time to prioritize your hobbies and emotional, spiritual, and physical needs. Go to yoga classes a few times a week if it helps you feel grounded and calmer. Indulge yourself! Get a manicure or pedicure at a salon every three weeks to give yourself a break from the hustle and bustle of your otherwise hectic life. Make (and keep!) plans to have dinner or drinks with your friends. You have a right to feel joy. You should not feel guilty about this. Regular breaks will refresh you and give you the energy you need to care for your loved one.
Being a caregiver is not easy, but don’t make it more difficult than it needs to be. Don’t lose sight of yourself as you care for others.