Feeling guilty and selfish is extremely common in the caregiving community, although it shouldn’t be. As a caregiver, making sure that your body and health are physically and mentally taken care of before anyone or anything else is important. While it is understandable that your main focus might be on the care you provide to your loved one, that doesn’t mean you should exclude yourself. It is easy for caregivers to lose sight of what is best for themselves and their health, especially when their plate gets full. Developing an organized schedule, as well as setting aside ‘me’ time away from your caregiving duties are both beneficial for full-time caregivers. Taking care of YOU is not selfish.
As a caregiver, you might ask yourself “how am I not taking care of myself if I feel fine and show up every day?”
Here are some ways caregiving can affect your health and well-being, whether you’re aware of them or not:
• Sleep deprivation – Your sleeping pattern has a lot to do with how your body functions every day. With a full plate, sleeping 4-5 hours a night might feel like enough rest for those who are always on the go. However, it is recommended that the body gets anywhere from 6-8 hours of sleep every day. Depriving yourself of sleeping is not only unhealthy for you as a caregiver, but also for your loved one. Lack of sleep negatively affects the mind and body in such ways that it can alter your actions, impacting the one you care for.
• Poor eating habits – Implementing a strict diet can be hard, especially the less time you spend near a kitchen. While it may be difficult at first, it could be in your best interest to prep your meals for the next day or two in advance. Packing your meal, with a few snacks and drinks, and placing it in the refrigerator the night before can help reduce the chances of skipping a meal or having to eat fast food on a daily basis. Prepped meals not only are better for the body but they are also better for your wallet.
• Failure to exercise – Having a set exercise schedule is not completely necessary, although beneficial. Exercising also does not entail a gym membership – being active for 30 minutes each day is recommended and if you’re one of those who is constantly on the go and moving, you’re exercising without even realizing it. While it may seem like it won’t do much, taking a walk outside every day can actually help clear your mind and reduce caregiver burnout.
• Not taking a break or slowing down when you feel overwhelmed – Over-pushing yourself can have more of a negative impact on your mental health than you think. The best time to take a break and make time for yourself is as soon as you begin to feel overwhelmed – mentally, spiritually and physically. If you allow your body to feel overwhelmed for long periods of time, you will begin to notice your health taking a turn for the worst. Schedule doctor visits frequently and during your appointments be honest about what is on your plate and how you are or have been feeling.
To learn more caregiver tips or speak to someone about our caregiver services, visit: https://www.fsl.org/education-for-clients-and-caregivers/.