Many caregivers report feeling as if they are drowning in the responsibilities of caregiving. However, you cannot save another person if you are drowning. Fifty percent of long-term caregivers will die before the person they are caring for. Why? Because they do not take care of themselves during the years they are taking care of others.
It is common for caregivers to get so focused on the person they are taking care of that they neglect their their own health. They fail to get annual physicals which might detect disease and illnesses in early stages. Many caregivers develop poor eating habits, fail to exercise, and gain excessive weight. In addition to stress and comfort eating, some caregivers say that they use alcohol to help them sleep or to self-medicate. Others report they start to smoke again after having quit for years prior to falling lot to caregiving.
Caregivers need to take care of themselves or they will have nothing left to give others. Here are some ways individuals may take better care of themselves and find greater balance in their lives while taking care of others.
First, take care of yourself physically through good health habits--exercise, maintain a healthy diet, lose excessive weight, confront addictions to caffeine, nicotine, sugar, alcohol and/or other drugs. The old adage “You are what you eat (drink, and smoke)” is true.
Our emotional and spiritual well being is directly intertwined with our physical health. Most emotional, as well as physical, health issues—depression, anxiety, insomnia, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic fatigue, joint pain and a host of other illnesses are directly related to what we put into our bodies and how we treat ourselves.
Second, schedule your own physicals, check-ups, and regular medical exams, and commit to keeping these appointments.
Third, stay connected with extended family and significant others. Mend fences if needed.
Fourth, even if it's only for an hour a week, engage in a gratifying activity. Find a support group even if it is on-line.
And lastly, connect with your inner being. Take at least fifteen minutes each day to sit quietly and listen to your own inner voice, even if it requires that you get up fifteen minutes earlier. The pay-off will far outweigh the loss of a few minutes sleep.
We all have this wonderful gift--an internal mechanism that will guide us if we’ll take the time to pay attention to it. When we listen to the still, small voice within us, the choices we choose will make the caregiving process much easier and more enjoyable.
Remember the Law of the Harvest--plant good seeds. Scroll down for You Tube Video.
Sandra - Caregiver Guru for the Caregiver Generation