For a busy caregiver, time off can seem like an impossible extravagance. Taking time for yourself, doing things you enjoy on a daily basis, will improve life for both yourself and the person in your care.
The human body is just like a machine; it needs fuel and downtime in order to work well. Sooner or later everyone needs time to de-stress and recharge. If we don’t take that time, fatigue and eventually burnout will creep up and make a difficult situation impossible.
Here are ten tips to help prevent burnout. Don’t feel guilty for taking time to yourself. You feeling good is important both for yourself and for the person in your care.
1. Set aside time for yourself every day
At least 30 uninterrupted minutes a day of doing whatever you enjoy – reading, knitting, playing with the dog, watching TV, walking in the woods – will help stave off exhaustion and burnout.
2. Take time to exercise
This might seem like the last thing you want to do. Being stressed, sad, and tired does not encourage exercise. However, exercise is a powerful stress reliever that will help you cope with the bumps of everyday life. Whether you go to the gym or take a walk, regular exercise will boost your energy level and help keep fatigue at bay.
3. Eat well
Stress and shortage of time encourages fast food, which is generally very bad for the body. High levels of sugar and fat can provide a quick pick-me-up, but in the long run it will steal energy away. Fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, lean protein, and whole grains give energy that lasts during the day. It can be difficult to step off the rollercoaster of sugar and caffeine, but in the long run, a balanced diet will help you move towards a balanced life.
4. Focus on the things you can control
It is tempting to blame life, God, corporations, or something else, and feeling angry and frustrated is fine. Feelings are not always rational, and they’re there whether we want them to be or not. We can, however, learn to handle them. Focus on the way you choose to react to problems. Dwelling on things we can’t change doesn’t make anything better.
5. Don’t let caregiving take over your life
Caregiving can be a full-time job and more. Regardless of who the person needing care is and what happened to them, getting through difficult situations is easier with balance. Find something that gives you meaning and purpose. This might be family, religion, pets, creating something with your hands, or your career.
6. Make sure you get the sleep you need
There’s never enough hour in a day, and there’s always someone who needs you. Cutting back on sleep might seem like a great solution to find more time, but this is not a long-term solution. Most people need more sleep than they think they do. Being rested improves the ability to handle stress, productivity, energy, and mood.
7. Find ways to pamper yourself
Invest in yourself. You are doing a great job and you deserve to feel special. If you want a long bath, a manicure, fresh flowers for the house, or something else that lifts your spirits, go for it!
Laughing doesn’t come easy in times of stress, but finding humor in everyday situations can make a world of difference. Smiling lowers heart rate, reduces stress, produces empathy, and helps deal with pain. Read a funny book, call a friend who makes you laugh, or watch something funny on TV.
9. Get out of the house
Leaving the house can seem impossible when the person needing you is right there, but changing environment is vital for well being. Ask family and friends to step in, even if it’s just for an hour. Go to a coffee shop, to the store, to the beach, for a walk, anything that takes you out of the house. If you go somewhere you can meet other people it’s a bonus.
10. Seek out a caregiver support group
A caregiver support group is a great way to talk about your problems and get ideas from other people who understand. If you find a group dealing with the same illness you are, their knowledge can be invaluable, and they know what you’re going through. You can get help, and be able to help others as well. Many communities have support groups where people who live near each other meet up. There are also Internet groups where people from all over the world support each other.