We know that caregiving is difficult. We know caregivers often feel overwhelmed by their tasks- both in their daily lives and caregiving. When people become caregivers, their obligations in the rest of the lives don’t stop, so caregiving often falls “on top of” other responsibilities. If they were consumed with obligations before caregiving, the caregiving role can be the straw that broke the camel’s back. We know that regular breaks are important to allow caregivers to reset and re-establish the priorities in their lives. We also know that efforts to schedule breaks can be daunting, and irregular in a busy life. Self-care is necessary for caregivers, not an after thought. It is not something that you need permission to take a break, or squeeze in whenever you are about to burn out. We believe that it is necessary for all caregivers, to be proactive and ensure that they are able to continue functioning optimally.
We’ve assembled 10 suggestions of short, simple, inexpensive ways to help caregivers reset or restore their perspective when they are feeling overwhelmed.
We’d love to hear from you about what works best for you in the moment.
- Take 5 deep breaths. Research shows that focusing on deep breathing is a great way to restore heart rate, breathing rate and mental focus. By focusing on breathing, one has to actively look internally, and shift focus away from the elements that are causing the stress. That shift in perspective can often be enough to restore or reset expectations. Try counting slowly to 10, and then back down to 1.
- Drink a glass of water. Not being hydrated can cause people to feel sluggish, cranky, tired, to have headaches, and to mistake thirst as feelings of hunger. If you are a regular coffee drinker, but aren’t in the habit of drinking water, this can exacerbate the dehydration. Drink a full glass of water, and then note how it makes you feel.
- Subscribe to a guided meditation app, such as Calm.com, which can provide 2-5 minutes of meditations that you can do at your convenience. We know that things that are “at our convenience” are sometimes ignored, because they can always be “convenient” later. Set a calendar reminder to do it every day or every few days at a particular time until it becomes a regular habit.
- Take a walk around the block to clear your head. If you are in a regular exercise habit, try to stick to this as a way to break up the day over and above exercise. Use it to look at different sights; feel the fresh air and clear your head.
- Do some other exercise: 10 jumping jacks, 10 pushups, 10 squats etc., just to get the blood flowing.
- If the weather is good, sit outside in nature. If possible, have a meal or coffee outside to enjoy nature.
- Listen to some upbeat music. Create a caregiver playlist to put you in a good mood.
- Take a regular art class, or yoga class, or other activity that is scheduled and on the calendar. Arrange for care during that time period.
- Find time for your hobbies- whether that is crafting, sewing, knitting, reading, puzzles etc. Whatever feels relaxing and energizing to you is important to keep on the agenda.
- Wherever possible, plan fun activities that you can look forward to with friends and family. This can include weekends away, or an afternoon or evening show, movie, museum visit, have a massage. Plan for respite for your loved one so you can relax knowing that they are well cared for in your absence.
What works best for you to take a break? We’d love to hear in the comments.