Being a caregiver can be overwhelming. Providing the care, love and attention that your loved one needs can be a challenge especially if you also have do your best at the office and take care of your family and home Taking care of yourself will help you take better care of others.
According to the National Family Caregivers Association, 63 percent of all caregivers report having poor eating habits, and it isn’t because they are eating fast food. It’s because meal planning becomes more than just tossing together items from a near-empty pantry because you have not been able to go shopping. Cooking becomes more complicated if your loved one requires a specific diet different from yours.
Many caregivers also cut back on exercise because they believe they can’t fit into their already-full schedule. Yet, it’s a well-known fact that exercise can help reduce stress and relieve anxiety. Healthy physical activity on a regular basis can help you stay physically and emotionally balanced. If you are too tired or out of shape to help, then you not be able to offer much-needed help.
Even though eating well and getting enough exercise are basic ingredients for well-being, it’s easy for caregivers to feel guilty about taking a few minutes for personal care, especially when the ‘to do’ list is long. It is important to find ways to get the care you need so that you can help your loved one.
Here are a few tips:
- Stock up on basic food items so that you can more easily prepare nourishing meals for yourself and your loved one.
- If your budget allows, subscribe to weekly fruit/vegetable box deliveries. This provides easy access, fresh and local produce.
- Double the volume of what you cook so that you can freeze or store extra portions for another day.
- Combine tasks. Can you bicycle or walk to where you need to go?
- Borrow, rent or buy exercise videos you can use any time of day.
- Vary your exercise regime. Yoga, aerobics, pilates and walking all work your body in different, important ways.
Be patient with yourself as you explore what does and does not work for you. Give yourself time to get used to the idea that taking care of yourself is part of taking care of your loved one.
J. Dietrich Stroeh is author of Three Months: A Caregiving Journey from Heartbreak to Healing (2012 FolkHeart Press). For information, visit www.threemonthsbook.com.