Caring for You
Just like the phrase, “You can’t fall in love with someone else until you love yourself,” you cannot care for someone else without caring for yourself. Because caregiving can be such a stressful job, forty to seventy percent of caregivers suffer from significant depressive symptoms, which can decrease a caregiver’s ability to provide effective care . On top of that, many caregivers suffer from chronic stress, which can lead to harmful relationship habits (e.g., yelling) and worsened physical health.
The first step to caring for yourself as a caregiver is remembering that, despite heroic work, none of us are the superheroes you see in movies. Caregivers are actual people who, understandably, have limitations. It is acceptable and often necessary to ask for help. Build a support network, whether with friends or by joining a caregiver support group. To find where you can meet other caregivers, call your local Area Agency on Aging or Caregiver Resource Center.
The second step is to take care of yourself physically. This includes getting at least eight hours of sleep every night, eating healthy foods, and exercising. Although it seems impossible to find time to do these things while worrying about the health of your loved one, good physical health will not only benefit you, but help you provide better care. Contact your physician to talk about different methods to sleep better each night, foods to contain in your diet, and stress-relieving forms of exercise.
Lastly, it is essential to take care of yourself mentally. This connects to both setting limits and creating a helpful support network, and physical well-being. Being able to talk to someone or going on a walk every night reduces stress levels and can decrease the mental frustration most caregivers constantly battle. Focus on being kind to yourself, celebrate the small victories, and applaud your efforts.
Even though you are human and not a superhero as seen onscreen, you are a real-life superhero in the eyes of your loved one and others.