When it comes to Caregiving you may have questions regarding the options like where to live, type of facility or helping your loved one remain at home. Questions like Government benefits, health insurance, home care, and the never-ending questions that continue as your loved one ages.
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The 3 Best Ways to Prioritize Self-Care When You are a New Caregiver
New caregivers take on a host of new responsibilities that can become overwhelming and taxing. In order for caregivers to provide the best possible care, they must take first help themselves. After all, if you neglect to care for yourself, you cannot effectively help anyone else.
1. Reduce Your Stress in Healthy Ways
Caregivers expect to be tired. You may even expect to be frustrated at times. One thing you may not be prepared for is the amount of stress you will face as a new caregiver. Indeed, caregiver stress stems from several sources, including concerns about making ends meet if you cut your work hours to provide care for a loved one, feeling unqualified to provide the level of care your patient deserves, or facing the unique challenges of caring for someone with dementia or a physical limitation.
No matter the causes of your stress, it is imperative that you handle it in healthy ways. Managing stress becomes necessary if you are more irritable, have difficulty sleeping, or become forgetful. As soon as you notice warning signs of stress, take action.
Some of the most effective ways to reduce stress include taking a walk, working in a garden, reading, meditating, or talking with a friend. The American Psychological Association (APA) also recommends taking a break from the stressor, exercising, smiling and laughing, and getting social support to manage your stress effectively. You need to find the best way to manage stress given your situation and prioritize it before the stress impacts your physical and mental health and impedes your ability to provide quality care.
2. Avoid Addictive Substances
Conversely, it is crucial that you avoid self-medicating with addictive substances when you feel stressed in your new caregiving role. For instance, you should avoid drinking alcohol when you need to manage your caregiving stress because researchers found that “caregivers who experience social and emotional burden related to caregiving are at risk for problematic alcohol use.” The last thing you want to do is increase your risk of alcoholism when you become a caregiver.
3. Put Your Physical Needs First
If you don’t fuel your body properly, you will not have enough left in the tank to fulfill your caregiving duties. Putting your physical needs first is one way to ensure you will have what it takes to provide the best care to your patient. Prioritizing your physical needs includes eating balanced meals, exercising, and getting enough sleep.
- Eating balanced meals – Eating a healthy diet will help you maintain good health and feel your best, both physically and mentally. You should eat at last five fruits and vegetables each day. You also should opt for whole grains when it comes to bread and pasta. Choose lower-fat dairy products and increase your intake of protein with beans, fish, lean meats, and eggs. Opt for unsaturated fats and eat less sugar.
- Exercise – AARP recommends taking time for your fitness needs as a caregiver. While you likely don’t have time to go to the gym every day, you can exercise when your loved one naps or attends a day program. Try quick, simple exercise like taking a brisk walk around the block or following exercise videos at home. You need to get in 30-40 minutes of moderate exercise at least three times a week. Try yoga to relieve stress through meditation while getting some exercise. And, focus on strength training when you can’t take a walk because you will need to be strong enough to move your loved one.
- Get more sleep – It’s often difficult for caregivers to get enough sleep because their patients don’t sleep well. To improve your quality of sleep, try meditation or relaxation techniques. Don’t drink caffeine before bed and prioritize exercise. Nap when your loved one naps. If all else fails, look into respite care to give you a break so you can get more sleep.
By prioritizing self-care, new caregivers ensure they are up to the task of helping a loved one to the best of your ability. Begin by reducing your stress in healthy ways and avoiding addictive substances. Then, put your physical needs first.
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