By Beverly Nelson
Taking care of someone you love is an honor, but it's also a serious undertaking. Whether you're a caregiver by calling or circumstance, the work of keeping someone else well and comfortable will take a lot out of you. It's important to find ways to recharge your batteries when you're taking on this role. Otherwise, you may inadvertently give and give until you find you have nothing left.
IG Living knows how important — and difficult — good mental health can be for both people with chronic illnesses and the people who care for them. That's why we've come up with this guide to effective self-care for caregivers. We hope these suggestions help you to discover the self-care techniques that work best for you.
Eat a Healthy Diet
When we don't get enough nutrients or our diet is generally out of whack, we feel worse. A healthy, varied diet reduces our vulnerability in challenging situations and makes us better prepared to handle the unexpected. However, caregivers often find that, with precious little time, they tend to skip meals or turn to fast meals that may not be the healthiest options.
Fortunately, there are several ways you can combat this habit. For example, you can look into meal delivery programs that can bring you healthy, ready-made food you can eat when you don't have much time. Supplements are great for getting energy-boosting nutrients that are easy to miss in your diet such as vitamin B-12. When you're getting all the macronutrients and micronutrients your body needs to thrive, you'll find you have far more of the physical and mental energy needed to handle the day's tasks.
Talk to Someone
Being a caregiver can be extremely isolating. You have a lot on your plate, but most caregivers are, understandably, hesitant to vent to the loved one they're caring for. After all, you never want to risk making your loved one feel like a chore or a burden. However, odds are you do need to talk to someone about what you're going through — ideally, someone who can understand your struggles without assuming you assign blame to your loved one for them.
The ideal outlet for this is a therapist, especially one who has worked with caregivers in the past. If you don't have access to a professional, caregiver groups can also be a wonderful source of support and solidarity. A trusted friend or family member who's outside of your situation may not be able to understand your position as well, but they can offer a valuable perspective.
Find a Hobby You Enjoy
Finally, one of the absolute best forms of self-care is to figure out some kind of hobby or activity you can do in your downtime that's just for you. Caregivers give so much of themselves to their loved ones, but having one special thing that you enjoy can help you use some of that same caring, loving energy to nurture yourself.
For example, you might want to get into drawing or painting if you have an urge to be creative. Fiber crafts such as knitting and crocheting are a great option for when you just want something to do with your hands but would prefer following directions over conjuring something from nothing. Puzzles, video games, running, yoga — the specific hobby you pick up isn't important. What matters is that you find something you can use to foster independence and self-love.
Remember: Taking care of yourself isn't an act of selfishness, and it's not a sign that you care any less for your loved one. Indeed, a healthy self-care regimen can actually make you a far better caregiver over the long term.