Caring for loved ones during an illness is incredibly difficult and stressful. Caregiver burnout is real. In order to care for others, remember to care for yourself. Use these coping strategies to help you balance your life with your caregiving.
1. Be clear about today’s reality. Don’t imagine things are worse than they are. Enjoy the good parts today and don’t let worries about tomorrow take over your emotions and thoughts.
2. Talk honestly to family and friends. Honest, frequent communication with close family and friends from the start of a diagnosis is much easier than trying to play catch-up later. Expect and prepare for tough talks about the illness and your new caregiving lifestyle. A wonderful, free internet service is available at caringbridge.org, which allows you to regularly communicate about your loved one’s health.
3. Ask for help. Caring for a loved one, whether a spouse, child, relative or friend, is not a one-person job. Think about ways that others can pitch in, and assign jobs. It can be as simple as making a dinner for one night, doing the grocery shopping, filling the car with gas, vacuuming, or just giving you a break for some time to yourself.
4. Journal for yourself. There are so many ways to re-center yourself, but few work as well as journaling. Even if you have never kept a journal, starting one now will help you clarify feelings, manage the stress and plan the work you need to do as primary caregiver.
5. Take good care of yourself. Eat healthy food, get some exercise, rest well, and learn to say no to outside demands. Get regular check-ups with your doctor and dentist. And make sure to get out of the house every now and then.
6. Release yourself from expectations of perfection. We all tend to get frustrated when we realize we do not have infinite energy, wisdom, or capabilities to manage our lives. This is normal. Get through each day as best you can, and don’t dwell on mistakes.
7. Pray for other people. Unclutter a room and give to your local thrift store. Send a nice note to an old friend. Giving keeps you feeling emotionally and spiritually full and is always worth the effort.
8. Give yourself a break. Binge-watch an entire series of a good television show you’ve always wanted to see. Learn a new hobby like painting or playing an instrument. Look for the simple pleasures in life – a butterfly on a plant outside your window, a kitten curled up in a ball. Remember: you are not just a caregiver, but a person with interests and desires.
9. Control what you can control. Lots of articles about stress management advise letting go of control; however, being in control of some areas of your life can greatly reduce your stress.
- Get help with housework.
- Get help with yard work.
- Prepare meals in advance and freeze them.
- Keep bills and insurance paperwork organized so there are fewer financial surprises.
- Plan your work; then work your plan. Be as efficient as possible. Don’t let things pile up.
- Do three little things every evening before you go to bed, such as laundry, dishes and taking out the garbage. The morning will be much more of a gift.
10. Let go of what you cannot control. For some, this means “Let go and let God.”
11. Keep a vision for the future. None of us comes here to stay; we know that. But we also know that we can “grow until we go,” and we should. Continue to dream about what you want in days to come.
12. Have an Attitude of Gratitude. Be grateful for all the little things life has to offer in each day – that parking spot right in front of the store, the man who held the door for you. There is beauty in everything, if you just look for it.
For information on support services available to you when in a caregiving situation, email email@example.com.