Who spends most of their time focusing on the well-being of others? Caregivers, that’s who! We are the 44 million or more that put so many others before ourselves. There are plenty of us out there, some that spend 24 hour a day working. Solely because inside of us exists a desire to ensure people in our life are happy and healthy. This is a blessing and a curse. Too often it seems that caregivers forget, or overlook, caring for themselves. We’ve all had this happen. Unfortunately, in today’s reality, we are a part of the sandwich generation. Those of you that don’t know what that means; it’s a caregiver that has a responsibility to care for their parents and their children at the same time. Whoa, sounds like a handful. Like kids aren’t enough, and the numbers are only growing. This comes with a growing importance for us to take more time for ourselves. Caregivers treat yourselves.
Why? And Who Has The Time?
It’s not whether we have the time. We can probably find more productive things to do than take a break though, right? It’s very easy to fall into the routine of non-stop caring. I’m speaking from experience. Consider what studies have shown about stress, anxiety and lack of sleep. It’s pretty well known that those three things are dangers linked to serious health risks. Look at this quote from Prevention.com:
“This arduous work has been linked to an increased risk of colds and flu, as well as cancer and heart disease. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, c
aregivers are twice as likely to be depressed as those without such responsibility, and they’re more likely to gain weight: 81 caregivers put on about 10 pounds in 18 months, in a recent University of Washington study.” http://www.prevention.com/health/healthy-living/why-caregivers-need-take-care-themselves
Breaks are not only important because you’re exhausted, but your health may depend on it.
What happens when We think We can do it all…
Simple. Burnout. Too much stress, anxiety and lack of sleep leads to serious health problems for caregivers. Caregivers may find that they will be the ones that need the care. We can’t expect to be the best caregiver we can be if we aren’t focusing on ourselves some of the time. Lack of sleep can lead to poor decisions while caring for a loved one. For example: Mismanaging medications, forgetting to change a catheter bag (this can cause infection for your loved one), missing important health symptoms and if you help with transferring it may increase the risk of losing balance and causing injury. In a nut shell it’s a bad choice to not leave some time to ourselves to recharge and stay healthy. For us and for our loved ones.
How Can Caregivers Treat Themselves?
- Breathing. A great way to relieve stress and anxiety.
- “You” Time. Take a bath, light some candles, Yoga, Your favorite hobby (Yoga (: ), yes it’s there twice on purpose, Nap…
- Treat yourself to dinner out. Go see a movie you’ve been dying to see.
- Date Night with your spouse.
- Go to work. If you are a full time caregiver, maybe consider getting a part time job to get away. The money is always helpful too.
- Hire a house keeper once a month. You’ll understand after you do this.
- Hair and nails. There’s nothing like looking good to make you feel better.
You have the idea. Remember yourself and do the things you used to have the time for, even though it’s a little bit at a time. The difference means better sleep, better care for your loved ones and better moods. If you can solicit a massage from your spouse for a hard day’s work, well then you get the cherry on top. That’s what I do!