As a caregiver, you have a job that changes constantly depending on your loved one’s health and needs. You deal with expectations and feel many emotions. Being a caregiver can be a long journey with many challenges. Taking good care of yourself is essential to your health and sense of well-being. It also helps the loved one you are taking care of.
So often, people are reminded to treat themselves. Yet, it is common for people to react to stressful times with unhealthy behaviors. Grabbing a piece of their favorite chocolate cake, binge-watching a trending TV show, or turning to alcohol or cigarettes are some of the many activities that are easy to make a part of your routine. This is when self-care can go wrong.
Let’s face it, we all do things we know are not healthy. What is important is avoiding letting them become habits. Once they do, they are very hard to break and sometimes we need professional help. Here are some healthy behaviors to treat yourself with:
1. Making Time For Yourself
Instead of worrying about what you can’t control, spend it finding moments of joy. Try to schedule this time regularly. Knowing that you have time set aside just for yourself can be helpful.
Feeling grateful can help you deal with the challenges of being a caregiver, even in difficult times. It can keep you from feeling helpless and hopeless. Also, forgiving yourself, your family, or even God and the person you are taking care of can help you cope with feelings of blame or regret.
Writing in a journal is one way to take care of yourself. It can help you heal, grow, and thrive. Journal writing helps bring order to your deepest thoughts and fears. Writing things down creates order out of chaos.
A gratitude journal is a journal with lists of things you are thankful for. This kind of journal relieves stress. Writing about what you are happy for is a powerful reminder of the good in your life.
3. Expressing Your Creative Side
Expressive art therapy combines psychology and the creative process to promote emotional growth and healing. For some, music and art are therapeutic tools that can help nurture personal growth and transformation.
Find a creative way to let your emotions out. Doing a puzzle, finding a coloring book and some colored pencils, or playing music are great ways to take care of yourself. Other ways to find joy and release emotions are crafting, sewing, drawing, writing in a journal, gardening, and photography.
4. Enjoy Eating
Eating while you are watching TV, reading a magazine, texting, or surfing the web is common, but it’s a bad habit for health. This is because you are not usually aware of what you are eating during those times. When you eat, try paying attention to what you taste, smell, touch, hear and see. This is called “mindful eating,” and it is a good way to enjoy your food more, reduce stress, and even eat less.
Find a physical activity you enjoy! Relax in a yoga session or relieve your stress by running or walking. Exercise is a great way to refresh your body and help your mind work more smoothly.
Try fitting physical activity into your day, even when you can’t go to the gym or an exercise class. At least 30 minutes a day of exercise is important.
Ask your doctor for advice on the best type of exercise and how much is right for you. It is important to ask especially if you are trying to lose weight or have certain physical conditions, such as a knee problem or diabetes.
6. Healthy Alternatives
Overall, finding healthy habits to fill the space that the bad habit used to take up is important. For example, if you quit smoking, you might chew sunflower seeds when you crave a cigarette or go for a walk to relieve stress.
7. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
You might know that 7 to 9 hours of sleep is the recommended amount for adults. But if you are someone’s caregiver, it can be hard to get this much sleep. Or you might get up several times each night to help your loved one. Your sleep affects many areas of life, including your health, pain level, memory, weight, and mood.
You probably know what you “should” do. But the problem is actually doing it, whether you want to stop smoking, lose weight, or take time for yourself. Finding a way to enjoy a new healthy habit can help. Try giving yourself a reward for drinking water instead of a sugary soda or finding a buddy to walk with once or twice a week.
Healthy behaviors can help you feel better overall. They can also help you avoid getting sick, or help you get better when you have a health condition. Making good food choices, exercising, coping with stress and avoiding unhealthy behaviors are important for your lifelong good health.