Taking care of aging parents and not taking care of themselves is a very common scenario for caregivers. The National Center on Caregiving says that family caregivers tend to suffer from sleep deprivation, have poor eating habits, don’t exercise, and often put off making doctor appointments when they’re ill. And caregivers who don’t practice self-care are at an increased risk of depression, chronic illness, and excessive use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
If you become exhausted, sick or suffer from caregiver burnout, you can’t give your parent the care they need. Taking care of yourself needs to be a priority, so you can function from a position of strength and wellness.
Self-Care Activities for Caregivers
It’s important to take time to care for your own body, mind and spirit. Here are a few self-care tips, simple practices and smartphone apps that can make it easier to work self-care for caregivers into your everyday routine.
- Your body needs enough water to hydrate and function properly. Plant Nanny and Waterlogged are easy ways to remind yourself to get enough to drink.
- If you need help finding healthier recipes or planning better-for-you meals and snacks, try Allrecipes Dinner Spinner or Yummly. They have large, searchable databases to make it easy to nourish your body.
- Stretching increases blood flow to your muscles, can prevent back pain, and relaxes your muscles, which encourages overall stress relief.
- You can find apps to help you do yoga and plenty of other types of exercise that fit your level of ability and interest. You can also create a playlist on your phone and go for a walk around the block.
- Manage your stress or anxiety with some guided meditations or breathing exercises.
- Spend time outside. Enjoying nature has been proven to restore mental energy, relieve stress and increase creativity.
- Give yourself some positive perspective with a gratitude journal.
- Take a mental break with a good book — or even a coloring book.
- Lift your spirits and practice the art of happiness with Happify. Activities, games and quizzes help you manage stress, reorient negative thoughts and feel better about life.
- Repeat positive self-affirmations. There’s scientific evidence that repeating simple, positive phrases can counteract pessimistic thoughts and create healthier habits.
- If you’re struggling with the emotional roller coaster that comes with caregiving, and you can’t get out to see a therapist, Talkspace could be helpful. Users get matched with a licensed therapist based on their needs. Once you choose a payment plan, you can send messages to your therapist to start working things through.
- If you find solace in religion, attend a service. Regular attendance has been linked to improvements in mental health.
- Pursue your passions. Ultimately, one of the best things you can do to avoid caregiver burnout is to carve out time to recharge and relax.
You can also check out a full list of our best caregiver apps.
It’s not just OK for you to make yourself a priority — it’s imperative. You’re the only “you” there is. By taking better care of yourself — caring for the caregiver — you’ll be able to take better care of your parent. And you’ll have a happier, healthier life while you’re doing it.
Start with one small change. What will you do to practice self-care? Write down one of these self-care tips and post it on the mirror or your desk as a daily reminder. And we’d love for you to share your goals and progress with other caregivers on our Facebook page.