“Put your own mask on first” – a message we often hear when we travel and a good reminder that we need to take care of ourselves first, before we help others! Being a caregiver for an unwell loved one, while rewarding and important, can also be all-consuming and exhausting – we understandably tend to neglect ourselves when focused primarily on the well-being of others.
Care-giver stress and burnout, often manifested through anxiety, negative physical and mental effects and mood changes, can have an adverse impact on your own health in the long run. Besides, we can look after and help others on their health journeys, only if we look after ourselves.
If you identify with the following signs of caregiver stress and burnout, it’s time to give back to yourself and focus on some self-care:
- Altered sleep patterns
- Falling sick more frequently
- Weight and appetite fluctuations
- General apathy towards things you used to enjoy
- Loss of interest in exercise
- Ignoring your own health and avoiding doctor’s appointments
- Physical and emotional fatigue
- Changes in temper and temperament
- Constant feeling of worry
Do any of the above sound familiar to you? If yes, it’s important to take a pause and look after yourself as well. When looking to help make the sometimes-bumpy ride a little bit smoother, try to...
Compartmentalize (make yourself a priority)
When being a caregiver, it’s natural that your days begin to center around the ill family member and their needs and wants. It’s not easy, but we often need to re-learn how to prioritize ourselves and our quality of life. Set some time aside for hobbies and self-care activities that help you feel better and more at peace, even if it’s short intervals...you too are worth the attention and love! Another form of self-care is to set boundaries to help with personal stress – about things you can or cannot do and asking for assistance when required. This can help ease the burden and help you feel more organized when it comes to caring for others and yourself.
Pay attention to the signs  (physical health to stay grounded)
When looking after someone amidst a health crisis, staying healthy ourselves helps us be prepared to sit steady in times of turbulence. As the saying goes – prevention is better than cure! Check your health markers periodically and don’t delay doctors’ appointments and corrective healthcare measures, if required. Besides, putting your health at risk and falling sick can make it even more stressful to look after someone else’s health. If you are feeling overwhelmed with everything on your plate, start with small, actionable steps for your health, such as going in for a consultation or adding in one manageable change at a time to your daily routine. Consider the addition of health tech devices that can help you monitor the health metrics of your loved ones, and yourself, in easier and more seamless ways, giving you some peace of mind and a breather as well.
Fuel up for the long haul (nourishment for health and well-being)
Nutrition can affect both physical and mental health. Timely, balanced meals, in the right quantities, help keep us healthy and energized. Sometimes packing in all essential macro and micro nutrients in daily meals isn’t possible – handy nutritional supplements can help bridge the gaps when needed. Fortifying your body well sets the stage for long-term wellness and health. Remember to nourish and nurture yourself… just as you would a loved one!