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Caregiver Support - Caregivers and Stress Relief

How To Take Care Of Yourself When Caring For Others

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Updated August 06, 2007

Many caregivers have trouble taking care of their own needs as they provide so much care for the needs of others. Whether you feel guilty for taking time out for yourself, or if you just feel like you don’t have the time to take, consider this perspective: If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have anything left to give! The following steps can help you to minimize some of the stress you’re feeling so you can feel less overwhelmed by the caregiver role:

Stay Connected: It’s important to maintain relationships with other people, not just the person you’re caring for or your immediate family. Others, especially those who are in a similar position, can provide support and information, as well as valuable opportunities to step out of the caregiver role for a while. I recommend finding a mix of social support from online support groups, friends with whom you may have lost touch as you’ve gotten busier, and new friends you may meet in the community. Even walking a dog around your neighborhood provides some of the health benefits of pets and can help you stay more connected to your neighbors and community.

Accept Help: If help is offered by friends, neighbors and others, don’t be afraid to accept it. Many people don’t know what to do to help, but are sincere in their offers of, "If there's anything I can do." Just think of what would really help you, and tell them — it may make them feel much better being able to lighten your load, so don’t feel guilty about it. If you’re not getting many offers of support, you may want to ask family members if they might be able to offer some. Also, there may be resources offered in your community, so some research in that area may yield some useful results. Sometimes even a little help can go a long way.

Find Time Alone: It may be difficult for you to find time alone, especially if you’re the sole provider of care, but don’t forget that you need to give to yourself in order to have the ability to give to others. However, taking an hour or two for journaling in a coffee shop, seeing a movie by yourself, getting exercise with a long walk, or going to a nearby park and immersing yourself in a good book are all excellent, restorative options that can help you to stave off burnout.

Maintain a Hobby: It’s also important to keep up some interests outside of your role as caregiver. Maintaining a hobby is a way to keep yourself feeling fresh and vital, and possibly to stay connected with others in another role. Here is a list of stress relieving hobbies to consider, some of which can be maintained at home with your loved one, along with some that will take you outside and connect you with others.

Stay Informed: While sometimes looking conditions up on the internet yield questionable or even unsettling results, it’s still often a good idea to research as much as you can about your lived one’s condition so that you’ll know what to expect. To be sure that you’re getting accurate information, talk to your doctor about good resources for information and support.

Stay Spiritually Grounded: Studies show that religion and spirituality can help immensely with stress relief, health and life satisfaction, so if you have are religious or have spiritual leanings, now is a good time to rely on them, and gain strength from your faith as well as your spiritual community.

Take Care of Yourself: The main idea here is to take good care of yourself -- physically, mentally and emotionally -- so that you’ll be able to handle the challenges of caretaking, and continue to provide care for others. The following article on self-care can provide some more ideas on how to take care of yourself, including getting enough sleep, eating a quality diet, and other strategies to keep yourself feeling well. Also, if you experience persistent feelings of fatigue, resentment, or burnout, don’t be afraid to talk to a professional and get some extra support.

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