Senior Alternatives

Care Management and Home Care Services

Self-Care for the Caregiver

     

     – September is National Self-Care Awareness Month. With that in mind we wanted to highlight the importance of caring for self while caring for others.  Self-care is described as performing a series of actions to improve your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Practicing self-care promotes a healthy relationship with yourself and in turn allows you to perform at a higher level. 

    We are all familiar with the instructions heard while taking a flight, when flight attendants tell you to “put your oxygen mask on first,” before helping others. 

    Why is this important?  Because it is a rule of survival.  If you run out of oxygen yourself, you can’t help anyone else with their oxygen mask. This is an important metaphor for those who spend a great deal of their time taking care of others (mothers, fathers, or caregivers). Taking care of others can easily deplete your energy and wellbeing.   Therefore it is of vital importantance to take good care of your mind, body, and soul and not just focus on it when you are sick.  Self-care inludes nutrition, stress reduction, and exercise, which help keep people happy, healthy, and resilient. 

    The above is not always easily done. Most of us have busy business, personal, social and family lives, so how do you squeeze self-care into the agenda?  According to Brad Krause, self-care advocate and Phychology Today – There are 12 ways to best take care of oneself. If you are feeling tired and uninspired or are not functioning at top level, read on:

    a. Make sleep a key part of your routine.  Start by thinking of a good nightly routine.  Don’t eat or drink too closely to bedtime, stay away from caffeine and sugar.  Think about the best ways to calm down before going to bed. Make sure the bedroom is cool, free of distractions such as TV, laptops, or cell phones. Ensure you have darkening curtains to keep the sun from shining early in the morning.

    b. Take care of your gut.  Your gut health can have a significant impact on overall health. Be aware of the types of food you eat as they crutially impact the bacteria that lives in your stomach.  Healing the gut can have very positive consequences to your wellbeing.

    c. Add daily excercise to your routine.  Daily exercise can help both physically and mentally, boosting your mood and reducing stress, not to mention anxiety.  Shedding off a few pounds is always a great goal and is a wonderful side effect of daily exercise. 

    d. At times, you need to say NO!  Saying no to others and yes to self maybe a habit worth starting. Many of us feel obligated to say yes when someone asks for a favor or completion of a task, but this deplets our time and energy. If you are already feeling busy and stressed, saying yes to loved ones or co-workers can lead to burnout, anxiety and irritablity.  Manage your time well by saying ‘No’ sometimes. 

    e. Take a trip.  Getting away for the weekend every now and then can help you disconnect. A self-care trip can help you relax and feel rejuvenated and it does not have to be costly.  The goal is to move away from your normal schedule and take time off. 

    f. Get to the outdoors.  A walk or hike in nature does wonders for the body, soul and spirit. Studies have shown that getting outside reduces fatigue and helps overcome symptoms of depression or burnout. If there is physical activity associated with the outdoors such as gardening it is even better. 

    g. Let a pet help you with self-care.  Pets can bring a much desired boost by providing companionship and unconditional love. Dogs especially can help reduce feelings of stress and can even lower blood pressure.  Many people who suffer from PTSD have benefited from working daily with animals. This is why service dogs have become so useful to many individuals in the past few years. 

    h. Read a book on self-care.  In our fast paced world, we tend to turn to our phones for entertainment.  We scroll thru news, apps or videos which sometimes may in turn help with building a different level of stress.  Instead, turn to the vast libraries available through various outlets that offer titles on self-care.  Reading slows you down, helps to redirect your focus and attention and it is a great pastime. 

    It may be tough to find the extra time for all of the above, so start by making a plan and incorporating some or all of these best practices to help you feel more relaxed, grounded and at ease.  The hope is that these strategies will help you feel better equipped to care for others. 

    To schedule a free 45 minute consultation with one of our Geriatric Care Managers, please call 888.451.4290

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