When making sure mom or dad have everything they need and then some, it’s easy to forget about taking care of yourself. Whether you’re providing at-home care or helping to take care of an elderly loved one at a retirement community, it’s important for caregivers to keep the following caregiver self care tips in mind to ease stress and stay healthy.
1. Eat well
Cooking may have taken a back seat to caring for your loved one as you’ve found yourself with less time to plan, shop and prepare balanced meals. Make sure you’re following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines on recommended daily nutritional values, including fruits and vegetables. Frozen vegetables, though less delicious, are a quick and easy way to get those vitamins. To incorporate more protein, look for snack bars with extra protein to keep in your bag as a mid-day snack.
2. Sleep well
Adults need about seven to eight hours of sleep each night to feel their best. Stress affects sleep greatly, both in the ability to fall or stay asleep and how well rested you feel in the morning. If you’re having trouble sleeping, there are natural sleep aids and dietary supplements like valerian or melatonin, as suggested by the National Sleep Foundation. However, don’t hesitate to set aside time for naps to keep yourself rested, even if it means resting your eyes while visiting the retirement community.
Even if free time seems to be slipping through your fingers, try to make the time for physical activity. According to Harvard Men’s Health Watch, stress hormones like adrenaline are lessened by exercise while the body simultaneously produces more endorphins, which improve overall mood. Strive for 20 to 30 minutes of moderate activity per day to get that right hormone balance, maintain weight and improve your self-image.
4. Tend to your own medical needs
Whether it’s time for a routine check-up or you’ve been putting off scheduling an appointment for a specific issue, keeping yourself healthy is crucial. Of equal importance is acknowledging mental health needs. It’s common to experience depression or anxiety while caring for an aging loved one. Some symptoms of depression are hopelessness, thoughts of death or suicide, and acute sadness. If you’re experiencing these, make an appointment with a therapist as soon as possible. Struggling with emotional pain can affect eating, sleeping and exercise so staying mentally healthy is key for overall stress maintenance.