5 Easy Self-Care Habits to Incorporate into Your Daily Life
Caregiving can cause sustained anxiety and stress, resulting in burn out. Before my mom moved into assisted living I was exhausted. ALL the time. I had trouble sleeping, was grinding my teeth, had frequent headaches, and since my mom needed full attention at all times, I could not find time to get away and find some calm. So I had to create some ways to find sanity while I was in the eye of the tornado. Honestly these help now too because when things go badly or there's a medical emergency, all my stress rises up to the surface again. Most self-care suggestions I've found operate under the assumption that you have time for counseling, to exercise every day, to shop for and cook elaborate, healthy meals, and even for sleep....Of course as caregivers we know we are lucky to scarf down whatever we can find in the pantry and get a few hours of sleep before we start all over again! Here are some realistic tips that have made a big difference for me.
1. DRINK TEA Chamomile tea, Calming blends (Yogi brand is my favorite - the Relaxed Mind blend specifically!), and any herbal tea. Valerian Root tea can help with sleeping issues - or capsules! Always check with your Doctor before adding herbal supplements. Sometimes drinking a cup of tea right after I got my mom to sleep was just therapeutic enough to nudge me in the same direction, after a long hard day.
2. STAY NOURISHED Carry around a water bottle and a bag of nuts. Make sure you are eating something - even if its not the healthiest food. We are hanging on here by a thread most days and need to do what's easy and quick. Try to avoid fatigue and low blood sugar by keeping a snack nearby!
3. DEEP BREATHE I started practicing yoga after my mom moved out, when I had some personal time to spend on self-care. There I learned the calming effects of breathing deep, and I was also able to stretch out some of those stress knots! Simple breathing exercises like breathing in for 3 seconds, and breathing out for 3 seconds, repeating 5-10 times in a row can do enough to calm the nerves for a few moments, so you can focus on the situation (crisis!) at hand. There will be time for hour long exercise classes later.
4. JOURNAL A simple thought jotted down here and there can make a difference. Acknowledging your stress, fears, and worries can serve as a release. You also have the opportunity to jot down something joyful or poignant that you want to remember for later encouragement.
5. ASK FOR HELP It is easy to become isolated when caregiving. I often felt no one could understand what my family was going through, and it felt impossible at times to reach out and ask for help. Once we finally did, we felt a rush of support and encouragement from friends, families, neighbors, and community organizations. You can request meal assistance through different non-profits, or set up a meal calendar (www.takethemameal.com) with your church or network of friends/family. Provided meals took a huge weight off our shoulders at the end of long days. Maybe a friend can come over for 30 minutes and sit with your loved one so you can take a nap. People are very willing to help and often don't know how - you have to tell them what you need. You might be surprised at what you find!