Whether you’re caring for a loved one or you’re a paid caregiver, the job of taking care of somebody on a regular basis can be taxing, both physically and mentally. While it’s important that you give your all when caring for another person, it’s equally important that you take the time to care for yourself.
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Taking care of your own health and making sure you’re leading a balanced life isn’t just good for you, either. It may also give you the ability to provide better care to others when they really need it the most.
Eat Right All the Time
As a caregiver you probably spend a substantial amount of time preparing healthy meals. However, that doesn’t mean that you always eat healthy meals yourself.
In fact, many caregivers tend to eat quick meals and rely on fast food, microwaveable meals, or packaged foods for their own dietary needs. Unfortunately, this can lead to weight gain and decreased health over time.
If you can’t find the time for three healthy meals a day at the family table, take the time to prepare nutritious food you can take with you. Salads, healthy sandwiches and even snacks like raw nuts or fruit are convenient and good for your body, and preparing them won’t take much time at all.
At the very least, plan one meal per day where you can sit, relax, and eat something freshly prepared to nourish your body.
In addition to eating right, getting at least 45 minutes of exercise each day is ideal.
Seek Support When You Need It
Caring for somebody in need is often very difficult emotionally. When you feel like you're in over your head, remember to express your feelings constructively and vent instead of bottling up everything. Not talking about your concerns may result in depression, as well as being too overwhelmed to function properly.
Seeking professional support may be necessary for some, but for others, simply reaching out to a trusted friend or loved one can be helpful. Speaking to somebody who has been through the same situation may also provide perspective on the issue.
Find Time for Hobbies and Relaxation
When you’re caring for somebody that needs a great deal of attention, you may find yourself falling into a pattern common to caregivers: spending every minute worrying about their health and happiness. While you might think that’s making you a better caregiver, the truth is that it could be negatively impacting your life and your ability to effectively care for somebody that relies on you.
To prevent this, devote at least a little time each and every day to things that you enjoy. The hobby that you choose is up to you. Simple things like reading a book, playing an instrument or simply listening to music can be genuinely helpful.
Look for hobbies and activities that are calming, not agitating. That may mean turning off the nightly news and putting on some soothing music instead.
Being a caregiver is a noble task, but rarely an easy one. If you’re feeling the pressure of the job or become too depressed, your doctor may have a few suggestions to get you back on track.
Tara Heath is a freelance writer in Southern California. She has spent time caring for her grandmother, and knows how demanding the job of a caregiver can be. She contributes health content to the Presidio Home Care blog.