It’s important to remember that as a caregiver, you need to take care of yourself as well. Just as you’ve seen right before your flight takes off, when the oxygen mask drops you put it on yourself first, before you assist anyone else. You can only take care of others if take care of yourself.
If you have assumed a caregiver role while simultaneously juggling work and taking care of your family you face an increased risk for depression, chronic illness and a possible decline in quality of life. You might start experiencing poor sleeping and eating habits, a lack of opportunity to exercise, ignoring your own medical problems and an increased risk of depression as well as excess drinking.
In order to combat these potential problems, you need to take responsibility for your own care. Identify what you need for yourself in order to care for your loved one. Then set your goals. Goals are easier to reach if you set them in small increments. For example, if you find that you are not getting enough exercise, plan out the steps to add it to your schedule. For the first week, give yourself just ten minutes a day for a walk. After two weeks, add an additional five minutes to your walk. You will have already adjusted to the ten minutes in your day, so you only need to adjust to five minutes more. After a month, add five more minutes. Studies have shown walking 20 minutes a day, just three times a week has a big impact on reducing tension.
If you are not eating properly because you don’t have the time, see if a friend of someone in your family can help prepare meals or have healthy snacks such as nuts and carrots and celery sticks available to you. Keep a can of almonds in the car, or small cans of vegetable juice around.
Taking care of YOU is just as important as taking care of your loved one. Take time off without feeling guilty. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
You can only take care of others if you first take care of yourself.