Being a caregiver is both rewarding and challenging, plus it is a role that tends to induce a whole range of different emotions as you try to contend with what is almost always likely to be a difficult situation.
These emotional responses can include anger and even a bit of resentment when you consider how much of your time is taken up each day, which is why you often need a bit of help understanding caregiver guilt.
Your priority is to provide the emotional and physical support that someone in your family circle needs but being a caregiver can take a toll on your own health and wellbeing, which is why it is so important to try and maintain a healthy work and life balance.
Here are some pointers on how to look after yourself as well as look after someone else and why it should be viewed that time away from your role as a caregiver should be viewed as essential rather than optional.
Look after yourself
You cannot realistically expect to look after someone else on a daily basis without making some time for yourself within that hectic schedule.
It is understandable that you may feel a sense of duty that means you put a loved one’s need ahead of your own but the fundamental point about adopting this mindset is that you will eventually experience physical and emotional burnout.
There is no question that caring for a loved one can be extremely rewarding but you should not succumb to feelings of guilt that prevent you from taking some time out for yourself as that is no good for either of you.
Organisation is key
A good way to keep stress levels down and to help you cope better with each day as a caregiver it would be a good idea to try and get as organised as possible.
Making use of to-do lists and calendar functions on your smartphone, for example, will help you to keep on top of your schedule more easily and gives you the chance to prioritise your responsibilities rather than muddling through, which can make the task more stressful.
If you have a plan and a schedule to work to each day of the week it will allow you to feel a bit more relaxed knowing you are on top of everything and it will also give you the opportunity to schedule in some breaks for yourself.
Get the support and help of others
Far too many caregivers take the burden of responsibility on their shoulders and don’t share their thoughts or concerns with a network of friends and relatives who are willing to listen.
A big priority for you as a caregiver should be to ensure that you maintain a healthy network of positive relationships where you can talk through your problems as well as talk about other things to help you relax a bit.
You will soon get to know who you can turn to for support and who you can call when you just want a friendly chat. Maintain these important connections in your life as they will help you to cope better with your role as a caregiver.
You have to step away
It is well documented how many hours caregiver’s dedicated of their time each week but it is physically and mentally impossible to think that you can provide around the clock care.
Be sure to reach out to friends and relatives and ask them to take over from you for a few hours at least, so that you have the opportunity to unwind, think about other things, and doing something for yourself.
Taking regular breaks away from your caregiving responsibilities should be viewed as vital in terms of your ability to continue providing good care and recharging your batteries is essential to your ability to function properly for the rest of the time.
Look after your own health
Being a caregiver often means that you consider the health and wellbeing of a loved one you are looking after as the number one priority but although that is an admirable attitude you should be mindful that your own health should not be allowed to suffer as a result.
If you neglect your own health and wellbeing it could mean that you end up being ill and become unable to fulfill your caregiving duties for a period of time.
Aim to eat a healthy and nutritious diet each week and keep well hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Taking a bit of time out of your schedule to do some meditation or practice mindfulness can work wonders for your health profile.
Managing your work commitments
If you have to try and hold down a job as well as provide caregiving duties that can be a real challenge finding a balance between the two.
A good starting point would be to assess your work situation and evaluate what hours you can realistically work amongst your caregiving duties.
It would be a good idea to speak to others in the company in a similar situation and approach your employers to see how flexible they are in terms of hours. A good tip would be to try and be proactive and suggest potential solutions rather than relying on your employer to come up with a proposal.
Showing them that you have thought about your circumstances and coming up with a schedule that you can commit to demonstrates a willingness to continue working despite your caregiving responsibilities.
If you have a job as well as providing caregiving duties it is highly desirable that you use any vacation time available to you as an opportunity to relax and recharge your batteries rather than using the time to provide extra hours of care.
This is not a selfish approach, more a self-preservation strategy that keeps you in shape for providing the level of care that you want to be able to provide.
Work out as many ways as possible to maintain a healthy balance so that you stay fit and well and can continue to provide care to a loved one.