November is National Family Caregivers Month and this year’s theme is “Caregiving Around the Clock,” recognizing the challenges that family caregivers face and how they manage them day and night. Many people do not know the toll caregiving can take on one’s mental and physical health. The goal is to raise awareness of family caregiver issues, celebrate the efforts of family caregivers, educate caregivers about better understanding their own needs, and increase support for these often, unsung health care heroes. If you are a caregiver, here are a few key tips on how to better take care of yourself as you juggle the needs of others:
Take Care of Your Own Health and Wellbeing
In a caregiver’s life, sometimes you are so focused on taking care of others that you forget to take care of yourself. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating healthy, exercising and finding other positive outlets you enjoy. This will not only make you feel better mentally and physically but can directly help you be an even better caregiver. It is also important to stay on top of your own heath by keeping up with your regular check-ups and preventative screenings.
Start or Join a Support Group
Feeling isolated can be quite normal for a caregiver. Joining a group of likeminded people who truly understand your circumstances can help greatly. You can discuss the challenges you face in your work and life with people going through similar experiences, openly vent about problems you may be having and be a support to others having the same difficulties. Check out online support group locations, talk to medical professionals or search in the community for a group near you.
Make Time for Yourself
Although it may sometimes feel incredibly difficult, make sure you make time for yourself. Taking time for a hobby, a long walk, tackling a good book or going to the movies can make a world of difference. A small escape helps you clear your mind in what can sometimes be an overwhelming situation. Try to find time each day to focus on yourself, even if it is just for a few minutes. Plan ahead and make time for things each week or month to look forward to, it will help!
Don’t Dwell on Bad Days
Everyone has rough days, but it is important not to blame yourself when that day hits. No one is perfect, and it is important to forgive yourself if you make a mistake or something goes wrong. Being a caregiver is a tough job, so always remember you are doing your best, and the next simple interaction or day is a new chance to make it right and impact someone’s life.
Ask for Help
Do not hesitate to ask for help from others. Reach out to friends, family or support groups in the area. If you feel like you have to do everything yourself or there is a constant source of anxiety, it can start weighing you down. Avoid this by using your support system or putting one in place to make your life easier, less chaotic and less stressful.
Access Community Health Network
Caregiving often takes a toll. If you are experiencing physical or mental health issues as result from the strain of caring for a loved one, ACCESS is here to help. We offer behavioral health services at our 35 Chicagoland locations. Schedule an appointment today to learn more.