About 43.5 million adults in the U.S. provide unpaid care for someone with a serious health problem. The reality hits most of us as we reach our 40s and beyond when we take it upon ourselves to care for an aging family member. It can feel all-consuming, especially when you’re trying to raise your own family and balance the demands of work at the same time.
Even though caregiving can be rewarding, it's can also take a toll on your mental and physical health. In fact, the stress of caregiving is linked to high blood pressure, depression, heart disease, cancer and alcohol abuse.
It’s important that you not ignore your own needs. Besides, when you’re good to yourself, you can perform better for the ones you love.
Here are some tips you can use to maintain your own wellness while being a more effective caregiver to others:
1. Carve out some “me” time every day. Devote those precious moments to doing something you enjoy - whether that's a hobby, a movie or a cup of coffee with a friend.
2. Move more. Short, brisk walks can help boost your health and lower your stress levels.
3. Don’t be shy in asking for help. If your burdens might be relieved by asking someone to fill in while you pick up groceries or take a much-deserved break, then you should ask. Make a list of what you need, and ask other family members or close friends for help. Or look into respite care or adult day care.
4. Checkups are a top priority. Tell your health care provider about your caregiving duties, and speak up if you're feeling overwhelmed or depressed.
5. Don't skimp on meals and rest. Try your best to eat healthy, balanced meals and to get plenty of sleep—seven or more hours a night.
Sources: American Psychological Association; Caregiver Action Network; National Institutes of Health