Provide Care for Others

Self-Care for Caregivers: Tips to Reduce Stress

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Being a caregiver for a loved one means you often have to place their needs ahead of your own busy life, which many times leaves little time to care for yourself. That can quickly lead to caregiver fatigue. And if you're not keeping yourself healthy and happy, chances are you're not able to do your best for your loved one.

Here are some caregiver tips to help you recharge, revive and keep your own care a top priority:

  • Exercise regularly and eat well. Staying healthy is crucial to maintaining the energy and stamina needed to master the daily tasks of caregiving. Exercising may seem like the last thing you want to do during a busy, stressful day, but it doesn’t have to be a full-blown workout. Research says just 20 minutes of brisk walking per day has a host of benefits.
     
  • Rest up. Being an in-home caregiver can sometimes feel like a 36-hour day. Your patience, endurance and concentration can all be pushed to the max. Sleep deprivation is a common casualty of caregiving, affecting your ability to focus, deal with stress and stay healthy. Do yourself a favor and try to get consistent, restful nights of sleep and let your health provider know if you aren’t getting enough sleep or have trouble falling asleep.
     
  • Ask for help. Most caregivers find themselves also holding down a full-time job and running their family’s household. You can't do it all alone, and you shouldn’t have to. Build a support network of family and friends. Take advantage of hospital and online resources to find the help you need.
     
  • Take time off. Finding "you" time is essential to being a successful caregiver. Take a walk, listen to music, go to a movie — do whatever makes you stay centered or relaxed. Set up a standing date to thank yourself for your efforts — and keep it. And keep up with your social life.
     
  • Listen to yourself. You will probably experience an array of emotions, both positive and negative. It’s important to take notice of the messages those feelings are trying to convey. Take some time to address those emotions, and talk to someone, perhaps a health professional, if needed.
     
  • Listen to your body. Caregiving can have physical effects on you as well as mental health effects. Day in and day out, caregiving can be physically exhausting. If you are feeling run down, chances are your immune system is taking a hit. Stay hydrated and get extra rest to boost it. Or that occasional twinge of pain in your wrist may an early sign of repetitive motion injury and should be addressed before it becomes more serious.
     
  • Join a caregiver support group. Caregivers often report that isolation is their number one source of stress. Fortunately, there are a lot of groups that offer help for caregivers. Connect with and relate to others in your shoes by seeking out a support group through a local hospital or nursing home.

Being a caregiver doesn’t mean you have to neglect your own needs. Be the best you can be for your loved ones by taking the time and attention you deserve for yourself.

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