When caring for a loved one, finding the time to care for yourself can be challenging, but is vital for your long term well being.
Often, a spouse, adult child or other family member steps in to help provide care for the family member who is going through a difficult journey. When someone becomes a caregiver, the first thing that often happens is they stop caring for themselves and focus most of the energy on their loved one.
Although this may seem altruistic, it actually can end up causing physical and emotional challenges for the caregiver. In order to be our best with our loved one, we must make great efforts to provide the best for ourselves. By using the flight attendant analogy of putting our oxygen masks on first, we can remind ourselves that self care is a number one priority in being a successful caregiver. Only when we are safe and cared for can we give our best to our loved one.
Below you will find a number of ways to support yourself as you care for a loved one:
Self Care. Ensure you are able to take a break from the Self Care. This includes getting the support needed. Maintain friendships and connections outside of the caregiving role. Maintain your own wellness routine. Maintain your own interests and hobbies.
Self Assessment Checking in regularly to determine how you are holding up. Ask yourself how you are feeling emotionally and physically. Are you feeling frazzled, irritable, on edge? These are all signs you are not getting the support and self care you need, and taking action as soon as possible will keep your tank filled and your attitude positive.
Forgiveness. Forgive yourself for any imperfection in managing this challenging situation. It is natural to have many different feelings while helping a loved one long term. There will be positive moments and moments when you may feel disappointed in your reactions. You are just an imperfect human... doing the best you can. Forgiveness and gratitude towards yourself is grace.
Get Help and Receive Help from others. This may include someone who is willing and able to come spend time with your loved one while you get self care. Or someone who is offering to cook a meal. Someone who offers to do some grocery shopping for you. Say YES! Accept it all with graciousness. This includes actually asking for something specific you may need.
Physical Self Care: Eat well; Exercise Well; Adequate Sleep; Stay Hydrated
Being a caregiver is incredibly hard work that doesn't always have a clock in and clock out time. Ensuring your long term well being will also mean you can stay strong and steady for your loved one.