You Matter! Caregiver Awareness & Self-Care
As the heartbeat of the family, you must take the time to care for yourself. There is a reason that the safety briefing on airplanes include “put your facemask on first before helping others”. If you are continually mentally exhausted, ill-nourished, overwhelmed, or physically unable to provide care, it causes you and your family additional stress. While it is difficult to make time for yourself, you’ll hear it repeatedly: Make the Time for You.
Caregivers often have their head down, their task list in hand, and they execute logistics that would make a 4-star amazed. However, this focused effort is rarely sustainable without an eventual change in perspective that acknowledges that you matter, and that you must make and take time for yourself to recharge and find solace. This will vary for everyone, but no one is a robotic machine forever. Please don’t wait until you fall ill or become so overcome that you don’t see which end is up. Sharing your experience and gaining perspectives from other Caregivers here or in person can be very beneficial.
You probably micro-schedule the rest of your life, so try to add good nutrition, exercise, relaxation, meditation, quiet, social time, or something that is yours into that schedule too. There are numerous options for small-group fellowship in local organizations, the faith-based communities, and sports facilities. Even forming a routine of taking the dog for a walk each day can be “you time”, and though it may not be sufficient for your needs, every little bit helps.
If at all possible in your situation, take advantage of formal VA respite care, and don’t be afraid to ask friends and family to run errands, pick up a prescription, drive to an appointment or anything else if they offer to help. So often Caregivers “do it all”, and in the process eventually hit a wall. Knowing you have a two-hour time block three times a week can greatly change your outlook! You’ll be stronger, healthier, and more able to carry on if you take care of yourself.
Eating healthier need not cost more. Many Caregivers swear by the Crockpot Recipe Book from Cracker Barrel and sharing tips on healthy, affordable meals is smart. Try hard not to fall back on the drive-through or to skip meals; it catches up with you fast. Many of you do your shopping at 3am due to living within a PTSD household, and making a list of healthy things takes the same time as the not-so-healthy items. You’ll feel better, maintain a healthier weight, and often a more positive perspective.
Sleep cannot be overrated. We like to say that sleep is like gold and it’s usually that precious to a Caregiver. If a change in routine, counseling, or meditation/reflection/prayer calms you, build it into your routine. If you do any of these routinely (nutrition, exercise, mental awareness), you’ll find that sleep quality may also improve. Another routine is to keep a gratitude journal of the day, so positive thoughts are on your mind before you close your eyes. Remain kind to yourself about self-care, and your ability to manage it will ebb and flow over this journey, but never forget how important you are!
Staying whole in mind, body, and spirit is especially important for Caregivers, and if we can help guide you to new resources or ways, please let us know. As always, seek the advice of a professional for any new exercise, diet program, or mental health activity for the best guidance. We are all given many choices in a 24-hour period, and taking each one carefully to choose what’s best for you will improve your quality of life. Thank you for joining us!
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