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So often, as caregivers, we give of ourselves to others and forget to take care of ourselves in return.  We tend to forget that self-care is as important as caring for our loved ones, and that you have to have your own cup filled in order to give to others. Here are some ways to ensure that you are taking care of yourself while taking care of the ones you love:

  • Take time for yourself and your own needs. Watch for signs of stress, such as impatience, loss of appetite or difficulty with sleep, concentration or memory. Pay attention to changes in your mood, a loss of interest in usual activities or an inability to accomplish usual tasks.  Do something you enjoy and that fulfills your own interests several times a week, even if it’s for five or ten minutes.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of water every day and exercise by taking short walks daily or at least three times a week. Caring for our own bodies is important to keep up strength and energy.  Plus, diet and exercise is not only good for your body, but your mental health as well. It may seem like you never have the time for a good workout, but even a 15 minute walk allows you to recharge and relax, increases creativity and reduces stress.
  • Listen to guided relaxation recordings or relaxing music. Relaxing is important! Research shows that relaxation keeps your heart healthier, cuts stress, reduces muscle tension, improves brain function and memory, and helps you avoid depression, anxiety, and obesity, not to mention boosts your immune system and helps alleviate the symptoms of many medical and psychological disorders. Even if you can only get in 10 minutes, it will make a difference.
  • Make it a priority to get a good night’s sleep. Getting enough sleep isn’t only about total hours of sleep. It’s also important to get good-quality sleep on a regular schedule so you feel rested when you wake up. Tired brains are muddled and decisions may not be the best. Good quality sleep also helps you to get sick less often, reduce stress and improve your mood, and lowers your risk for serious health problems, like diabetes and heart disease.
  • Set limits for what you can do. Don’t overload your daily to-do list. Be realistic. It’s difficult to set boundaries with our loved ones, family and friends, but learning to set boundaries is a sign of self-care and self-respect. Setting boundaries can help you regain and maintain a sense of balance over your caregiving situation.
  • Ask family members and friends help with household chores, meal preparation, childcare and shopping.  It’s so hard to ask for help, but even superheroes have sidekicks! You can’t do everything yourself. When they say “it takes a village,” it applies not only to children, but to all caregiving.  Ask for help and allow others to help out wherever they can.
  • Join a support group or caregiver program. WMEC’s Family Caregiver Support program offers information and guidance to caregivers about community resources, caregiver support, training, respite, and special needs.  Whether you are the caregiver of an older adult or person with dementia, or a relative raising nieces, nephews or grandchildren, you deserve support yourself and to know that you are not alone!
  • Give yourself credit. The care you give does make a difference.  Always remember, as Dr. Seuss said, “To the world you may only be one person, but to one person, you may be the world!”