Everyday as a caregiver you have a long list of things to do:
- Maintain the household
- Keep up with family and friends
- Organize schedules
- Provide care for a loved one,
5, 6, 7, 8, 9…and list goes on and on.
In all of this hustle, you may forget your own needs. There is a good guide for you called the Caregiver Handbook which is produced by the Denver Regional Council of Governments (www.drcog.org). They suggest protecting your physical health, taking care of your emotional health, considering respite care, and finding ways to relieve your stress.
My area of concern for you as the caregiver is your emotional well-being and stress relief. In everyday life when stress hits, we feel many different emotions and generally deal with it fairly well. However, caregiver stress can be very different. Because you are now in the “helping” role you may want to fulfill every request and accept every guest at the door. Perhaps you have difficulty saying “No” so you continue to do the nice things you did for people before becoming a caregiver. Even helping professionals must learn to take care of themselves so they can be more responsive to those they are helping.
John Lubbock was quoted as saying, “The future is full of doubt, indeed, but fuller still of hope.” However, when you are in the midst of stress and feeling overwhelmed this can be a hard saying to hold onto and believe.
So, what are some ways to take care of your emotional well-being?
Talk to someone you trust or write about your feelings.
- Good, bad, positive or negative – get your feelings out in the open. Writing in a journal is helpful because you can take the time to pour out you thoughts and release stress that way. The Caregiver Handbook suggests that you may feel angry, guilty, stressed, lonely or social isolated, or depressed in your caregiver role. If you are experiencing deep sadness, crying often, being cranky, unable to enjoy things that used to bring you happiness, feeling fatigued, and/or sleeping or eating too much or too little, you may be experiencing depression. You can seek out professional help through this time. If you are concerned about doing this, ask someone that you trust to help you make an appointment and then go with you.
Learn to say “No” to things beyond your caregiving responsibilities that you feel obligated to do.
- For example, you always bake a dish for new mothers in your congregation – you have done this for 10 years. Now you find it stressful rather than a joyous. Let them know that you cannot do this for a while.
Learn to ask others for help.
- My father had his leg amputated and cutting the lawn was the last of my family’s concerns. I was leaving town and asked the neighbor if they would cut the grass for the next month. Of course, they were very happy to help and continued to do this for years. Most people want to help you but unless you tell them what you need, they will not know how they can assist.
Set reasonable expectations with the person you are caring for.
- Allow them to do as much as they can on their own without your assistance.
- Discuss with them that there are times someone else may need to care for them.
Learn to ask professionals for the information and assistance you need to be the best caregiver possible.
- Be assertive. For example, if you think the behavior or symptoms of your loved one have changed, let the professionals know. Ask for feedback so you can understand why the behavior or symptoms have changed. Knowing the “why” behind these kinds of activities will reduce your stress level.
Keep track of all the things you are learning through this experience.
- Be proud of your successes.
- Put your “report card” on the refrigerator to show how well you are doing!
Do something nice for yourself every day. It can be something very simple like:
- Reading the funny papers every morning,
- Listen to music with your eyes closed a couple times a day,
- Taking time to stretch for 10 minutes, or
- Putting your feet up a couple of times a day.
Remember, caring for your own well-being will renew your spirit and ability to be a healthy helper. I am sure you do not get as much thanks or give yourself as much credit as your deserve so, “THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU ARE DOING AND TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOURSELF, TOO!”