Guest post by June Duncan of RiseUpforCaregivers.org
Caregiving is one of the most stressful jobs imaginable. There are long hours spent meeting the physical, mental and emotional needs of a loved one who relies on you as a companion as well as a care provider.
There are precious few opportunities to unwind and spend a few hours by yourself. Caregivers often have trouble taking care of their own needs and personal responsibilities. Vacation or personal time is even more rare. And there’s a personal toll that goes with being a caregiver. You sacrifice your time and, if you’re not careful, your health as well. It’s easy to neglect self-care, but when you do you risk many of the health problems that stem from unrelieved stress, such as high blood pressure, and cardiac and gastrointestinal problems. Fortunately, there are many small things you can do during the course of each day that’ll help alleviate some of the pressure you face and make you feel better about your situation.
Write it down
When there’s no one around to share frustrations with, try recording your thoughts and feelings in a journal. It’s a healthy way to carry on a frank conversation with yourself that can help you better understand how you feel about what you’re going through. That’s important, because caregiving can be a frustrating ordeal and, sometimes, it may seem like a thankless task. Try writing down what you’re grateful for each day, even small things that may seem innocuous and irrelevant. It’s also an excellent way to be mindful and aware of why what you do is so important.
Everybody has a few songs that always make them feel good. Create a personalized playlist of your favorite music, something you can queue up anytime you’re feeling stressed. Try listening to your playlist in the morning for motivation before you start getting busy. Try downloading a music app, such as Spotify if it’s easier for you. Create a separate playlist for the evening when it’s time to start winding down, especially if you have trouble settling down to sleep at night.
There are many fun and inexpensive ways to distract yourself whenever you have a few spare minutes. Try coloring, do a crossword puzzle or play a game of solitaire. If you’re more in tune with your smartphone, fire up Candy Crush or one of your other favorite “handheld” games. Sometimes, the simplest distractions are the best ones when you need to give your brain a break.
Youtube is a free source of instant, on-demand entertainment. If you’re in need of a laugh, find a couple of funny videos, maybe an old skit from “Saturday Night Live” or your favorite sitcom. You can also find some relaxing videos when you need time for reflection and meditative thought. Make liberal use of anything that makes you feel happy and relaxed.
Everybody loves looking through old family photos. It’s like watching a slideshow about your life. Spend a half-hour or so reminiscing with a photo album, recalling all those happy memories from Christmases and vacations past. There’s nothing quite like recalling memories of people you haven’t seen for a long time.
Sit down with a good book or your favorite magazine for an hour or two. It’ll involve your mind completely and banish frustrations for a little while. Reading is also good for your cognitive health and helps develops linguistic skills.
There’s no substitute for getting in some physical activity. It’s an important part of maintaining your physical and mental health, and keeping your stress under control. If you’re unable to afford a home gym, you can always get some free weights, kettlebells, and resistance bands.
Remember, you can’t be a good caregiver if you don’t take care of yourself. That includes taking time to chill out every now and then. And to reflect on the importance of the care you provide.
Photo Courtesy of Pexels.com.