In honor of World Caring Day, a global celebration of compassion and support, we delve into the vital role of caregivers and the significance of self-care in their lives.
Whether you’re a parent, spouse, sibling, grandparent or other relative or friend caring for a loved one, you play a vital role in their well-being. Caring Bridge — a nonprofit that provides no-cost dedicated, private, ad-free space for communication, support and connection for a loved one’s health journey — is bringing awareness to the role of family caregivers and how they can care for themselves. Read on to learn about the three signs that you may be in a caring role and tips on nurturing yourself today and beyond.
Do you care for a loved one?
Often, family carers don’t realize they’re in a caregiving situation. For example, a husband may temporarily take care of his wife, who’s broken her leg and help with activities and tasks she can’t do independently because of her injury. Or perhaps an adult child finds that their mother increasingly relies on them for care after a dementia diagnosis.
Whether a medical condition is temporary or permanent, many family members become care participants in their loved ones’ lives without knowing it or meaning to. Here are three signs that you may have transitioned into a care role.
- You have increased responsibilities for the well-being and care of a loved one. This may include providing emotional support, managing medical appointments, assisting with daily activities or coordinating care services.
- You’ve had lifestyle adjustments, such as changes in routines, living arrangements or career choices, to care for your loved one.
- Your relationship with the person who receives your care and others in your life has changed. You may feel stronger bonds with the person you care about and experience strain or tension in your relationships because of your responsibilities.
Not all of these signs may apply to everyone. Family care participants have a variety of experiences. Whether they identify as a caregiver, carer, care participant, care partner or avoid labels altogether, they provide invaluable support to their loved ones.
However, to care for others, it’s critical that you also care for yourself. Your well-being should also be as much of a priority as that of your loved one. Here are five ways you can care for yourself while participating in care for others.
1. Practice stress management
The extra responsibilities of being a care partner can be stressful, especially if you have no or minimal help and support. It’s important to take breaks from caring and focus on your needs.
Consider engaging in activities that can help reduce stress to maintain your well-being. Some healthy ways to manage stress include deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, walking, running, spending time with friends or any activity you enjoy.
2. Care for yourself
You work hard, and it’s important to remember that you deserve care too. Set time aside every day to take care of you! Take a walk, read a book, watch a movie, paint or write. Anything that makes you feel happy and relaxed is worth doing so you can prioritize yourself while still helping others.
If your financial situation allows, enjoy a spa day, get a manicure and pedicure or book a massage. These forms of self-care can get you out of the house and allow you space and time to focus on nourishing yourself.
Don’t wait until you feel burnt out to enjoy some self-care. If your schedule and budget allow, set regular weekly or monthly appointments that you can look forward to and know that you can also receive care.
3. Prioritize your health
It’s easy for carers to ignore their health when they’re busy helping others with daily tasks. However, you can’t neglect your health. Just like airplane safety videos remind you, it’s important to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.
Take stock of your health. If it’s been a while since you’ve had a preventative care visit or need another medical appointment, it’s a good idea to book now so you can work it into your schedule. You can also care for your physical and mental health by eating a balanced diet, exercising, journaling and sleeping well.
4. Maintain relationships
Many people who care for their loved ones say they feel overwhelmed, isolated and lonely as they support their family member’s health journey. These feelings aren’t just emotional burdens.
According to findings by the U.S. Surgeon General, prolonged loneliness is akin to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. Also, poor social relationships, social isolation and loneliness can increase your risk of heart disease by 29% and stroke by 32%.
To improve your stress response and minimize the negative health effects of stress, it’s important that you stay socially connected. Schedule regular get-togethers with friends, pursue hobbies or interests with others and reach out for help when needed.
5. Find community
Not everyone understands what you’re going through in your specific caring situations. Still, many people provide care to family members just like you. You can feel less alone, ask for advice and find community with other family caregivers through support groups.
One way you can share your experiences, build connections, find comfort and receive valuable insight from others who understand is by visiting CaringBridge.com. Here, you’ll find resources and a community that can help you feel less alone and overwhelmed in your role as a carer.
You can also create a CaringBridge site to easily communicate health updates to a group of loved ones. The nonprofit solution is no cost, easy to use and designed to share your family member’s health journeys all on a private communication platform with no ads. To learn more or make a donation, visit CaringBridge.org.