Caring for another individual can be an extremely hard task even for the most mentally and emotionally tough of us. Knowing that the well being of someone else is in our hands can be a very overwhelming thing to deal with. Because of this, caregivers often find themselves taking on a lot without stopping to think about themselves and what they need. Taking a step back and assessing yourself every once in a while is a good way to ensure that you are at your healthiest and therefore at your best when it comes to caring for your loved one.
Nobody knows you better than, well, you! Knowing the signs and symptoms of stress or feeling overworked can be the difference between feeling underappreciated and undervalued to feeling like you’re making a difference and taking care of yourself.
If you are starting to feel like caring for your loved one is becoming too much, don’t be afraid to reach out for support. A huge relief for you may just be getting the opportunity to share your struggles with others and hearing that they may be feeling the same way. Having someone to commiserate with is a great way to relieve stress. And having someone that can offer you tips or pointers into what works for them might be just the thing you need to rid yourself of any negative feelings you may be experiencing or at least be the boost you need to keep going with a positive outlook. A good place to start is the local hospital. Often times the social workers employed by hospitals run groups or know of groups and can point you in the right direction. Also,if the person under your care has a specific ailment or disease, there is almost always an organization dedicated to it so look on their websites too for tips on where to find local chapters of support groups. Think, The American Cancer Society and organizations such as these.
Another important thing to remember is that you cannot do it all on your own! Ask for help! Don’t be ashamed or have too much pride to admit that you need help. Are you caring for an elderly parent? Maybe you have a sibling that can take over some of your responsibilities once or twice a week or maybe your parent’s insurance plan will cover a home health aid for a few hours a week to give you a break. Having an extra set of hands and being able to take your mind off of the constant care you are usually providing could be the break you need to relax and refresh.
Finally, keep tabs on your body as well. Are you tired all of the time? Is your exhaustion causing you to miss things that could put your loved one at risk? Turning off your brain at night can be the hardest thing to do when you have a running ticker going through your head about the next days responsibilities, doctors appointments and general duties. Try to create a calming night time routine for yourself to help you unwind and relax. Take a hot shower or bath. Read a book that you’ve been meaning to get to or just veg out on the couch and watch your favorite show. Whatever it is, make it something you enjoy and take that necessary time for yourself. You will be grateful that you turned your brain off even for just an hour. And once you get in bed try taking some deep breaths or working on some guided relaxation techniques using deep breathing to help lull you to sleep peacefully. Here is an example of some guided relaxation just to give you an idea of what you can find out there:
You have one of the most important jobs in the world! You are caring for another life so don’t forget to care for your own! You will be happy that you took the time to listen to your body and mind and so will the person you are caring for. A present, well-rested and attentive caregiver is surely the best kind.
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