Being in the role of a caregiver brings mixed emotions. You may have volunteered for the role or fallen into it. You may be caring for your own parents or have a child with special needs. You may be caring for a friend or family member. You could be caring for someone who has a terminal diagnosis like cancer, or a lifelong condition like down syndrome.
Regardless of the circumstances, you face and how you ended up as the primary caregiver of someone you love, there’s no doubt that the extra energy and love needed to do the job well can take a toll on a person’s well-being.
Every caregiver wants to feel that the support and attention they’re giving are effective, and one of the best ways to do that is to engage in self-care. If you’re in the role of providing care, here’s why it’s important to spend some of that energy on you, too.
Why is self-care important for mental health?
Every mental health concern or disorder is associated with stress in some way. When our bodies and minds feel overworked, it’s normal to experience emotional and psychological distress. The goal of self-care is to reverse the damage of exhaustion, negative emotions and helplessness. Self-care can both improve mental health and prevent issues in the future.
Self-care can be used the in treatment of the following mental health concerns:
- Bipolar disorders
- Eating disorders
- Substance use disorders
- Chronic stress
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Anger issues
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Dissociative disorders
- Chronic conditions (like arthritis and heart disease)
Even those who do not have a diagnosable mental health disorder can benefit from self-care on a daily basis.
Why is self-care important for caregivers?
Self-care activities that are incorporated into a daily schedule (even ones that only take a few minutes) can decrease stress and elevate a person’s mood. Caregivers often report that taking time for themselves goes against their nature, yet self-care practices can benefit your loved one just as much as they benefit you.
If you’re currently the main caregiver for a family member or friend, here are some ways self-care could impact you:
- Reduce worry and anxiety over medical expenses
- Decrease feelings of hopelessness and depression
- Increase a feeling of self-efficacy and agency over circumstances
- Improve mood
- Boost energy level
- Inspire creative thinking and problem-solving
- Engage your mental capacities that may have felt latent
- Give you an opportunity to grow personal interests and invest in yourself
- Help you feel better physically and address back pain and similar caregiver-related injuries
- Improve your focus when doing important caregiving tasks
- Enhance your sleep quality
- Add meaning to your life
Caregivers often struggle with unique and seemingly endless stressors. In order to be the nurturer you yearn to be, self-care should be an essential part of your normal routine.
Self-care tips for caregivers
Being a caregiver feels like a constant job, and finding time off can be quickly assigned to other duties like grocery shopping, cleaning and paying bills. Making time for self-care isn’t easy, especially before you might notice the benefits, but the time you carve out will be well worth it over time.
Here are the best self-care tips for caregivers.
1. Find support
Being the primary caregiver of a person is a major task. Being the sole provider of care is impossible. The number one step for assuring your own well-being is to build up a support team. Relatives, neighbors, friends and even local resources can help alleviate your workload so you can take much-needed time for yourself.
2. Look for support groups for caregivers
Caregiving is a unique role, but you’re not alone in this difficult task. Finding support groups for caregivers can help you express the joys and frustrations of the role, share tactics to make daily life more manageable and find a community that can empathize with your situation. You’ll have a new outlet to socialize independently and be inspired by the lives of other caregivers.
3. Find your own hobbies
The nature of caregiving typically requires the bulk of a person’s time and energy. Once you engage support and carve out some time for yourself, you’ll find it enjoyable to exert energy on something new and engaging. You’ll reap the rewards of the effort you invest because you’ll have a chance to do something you pick for yourself.
4. Create an environment that feels comfortable
One of the best ways to avoid caregiver burnout is to make your caregiving space feel as comfortable as possible. When you’re in a space that feels constricting, sterile or unwelcoming, it can affect your interactions and your mood. Use calm lighting, live plants, painting, family pictures and sensory objects to help you and your loved one feel at home.
5. Seek therapy
Discussing personal or family matters with a stranger can feel intimidating, but when you work with the Light Program you’ll be assured of confidential and compassionate care. You deserve support as you pour your heart out for the ones you love.
Get assistance managing time, handling stress and addressing the strong emotions that come with a hard, yet rewarding role. Call today.