When you’re caring for someone you love, it’s easy to forget that you also have needs. You may tend to put them aside in favor of being in the moment and staying on top of your commitment to our loved one. But this situation can unfortunately add challenges to your situation, leading to incidents of exhaustion, burnout, depression and even illness and disease.

Taking care of yourself when you are a caregiver makes you happier, healthier and able to present a more positive and upbeat attitude to your care. Below are several proven tips to help you make sure you’re taking care of yourself.

Caregiver Take Time for Yourself

Take time for yourself. Getting out – even if it’s a short walk, a cup of coffee with a friend or a movie – is an essential self-care strategy that will help you recharge. If you’re stressed out, reading a book, taking a bath or listening to your favorite music can help you find your balance.

Caregiver Dont Forget Family and Friends

And don’t forget your family or friends. Make time for them, too. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Many times people around you are willing and ready to lend you a hand, but aren’t sure what they can do. If you don’t have a family member or a friend to help you out, look into community organizations and church groups in your area that offer backup to caregivers.

Caregiver Proper Nurition Is Essential

Proper nutrition is essential. Make sure you eat regular, nutritious meals to stay healthy. You will have more energy, which is something all caregivers need in abundance. Without proper nourishment, your body is susceptible to colds and viral illnesses. Avoid fast food which is associated with obesity, Type-2 diabetes and high cholesterol – all of which are symptoms often seen in caregivers. Preparing larger meals at home and then freezing meal-size portions is a great way to have tasty, nutritious food on hand. Stay away from sugary snacks and drinks and keep fresh fruit and water on hand.

Caregiver Be Ready to Sleep

Be ready to sleep when your loved one sleeps. While you may be tempted to launch into chores and cleaning while your loved one is sleeping, you stand the risk of depriving yourself of much-needed sleep. If your loved one requires care during the night, your sleep will be disrupted as well. Your inability to get a proper amount of sleep can create a vicious cycle where your care also suffers because you are exhausted or even short-tempered.

Caregiver Get Enough Exercise

Get Enough Exercise. One of the most important things for caregivers to do is to make time for daily exercise. Develop a routine that has variety and gives you something to look forward to – whether it’s a brisk walk, working out at the gym with a friend, riding your bike or doing yoga. Any time spent in motion will help you keep your health and boost your energy levels because exercise triggers the release of endorphins in your brain, which in turn improve your mood and give you more energy.

Caregiver Make Time Conversation

Make time for conversation. Talking with a trusted friend or family member can help you deal with the stress of caregiving. Often, caregivers can fall into a pattern of isolation and it can feel like the walls are closing in. Depression, burnout, anxiety and poor health are more likely if you don’t take the time to talk with someone who will lend you their support.

Caregiver Take Care of Your Own Health

Take care of your own health. It can be far too easy to fall into a pattern where you just can’t seem to find enough time to care for yourself, and you forget the importance of seeing your doctor for your own health issues. It helps to keep this in mind – if you get sick, who will be able to take care of your loved one? Strive to maintain good physical, emotional and spiritual health – this will help you manage the added stress of caregiving, keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in a normal range, reduce anxiety and depression and keep many other serious health issues at bay. If you feel you’re already having problems in any areas of your health – make an appointment to talk with your doctor – waiting will only make the problem worse.

It’s up to you to make the effort to stay healthy. You are providing a service to a loved one, but you won’t be able to do it for long if your health suffers as a result. Caregiving can sometimes feel like a thankless and difficult task, but if you take time for your own care, well-being and life balance, the load will be significantly lighter and you will be able to provide even better care as a result.

If you’re caring for a loved one and the need for additional care arises, call 1.866.KINDRED to learn about your options. Our registered nurses are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to listen and help.

By Mel Bearns