Caregiver Forum

Self Care for the Caregiver

When it comes to family caregivers, there’s something incredibly important that is often overlooked. It’s something that can make a positive difference - something that can decrease stress levels and increase overall wellbeing across the board. This crucial piece of the family caregiver puzzle is self care. 

Along with all of its rewards, caregiving can be a stressful job. The work you do takes both physical and emotional energy, and it’s important that you stay well. Unfortunately, even the best caregivers often put themselves last when it comes to care.

When stress runs high, you must look to activities you can do to support your own wellbeing. At first, self-care can feel like one more addition to an already long list of tasks. That’s why we suggest starting with quick, easy techniques: 

Check Yourself: Reducing the Fear of COVID-19

Covid is a legitimate stressor. Despite all of your precautions, that nagging fear still comes. You may face it upon returning to your loved one’s home with groceries. “When I go inside, am I bringing the virus with me?”  

In these stressful moments, try using our Check Yourself method. Pause, and compose yourself with the knowledge that you’ve followed protocols. Relax so your loved one will feel more relaxed. Then, enter the home as your best self. Give yourself permission to put stressful thoughts on hold, and enjoy making a meaningful connection. The mindset of being fully present with your loved one is good for the both of you. That’s why this is a great self-care strategy for caregivers. 

Breathe 

This is the quickest, easiest, cheapest, most available stressbuster ever. All you have to do is breathe. Have you ever noticed how you breathe when you are relaxed?  Have you noticed that you breathe differently when you’re stressed out - perhaps you hold your breath altogether. The next time you’re relaxed, pay attention to how your body feels. Maybe it’s when you first wake up, when you’re about to fall asleep or when you’re doing that favorite health-supporting thing that you do. Now, tune in to your body the next time you feel stressed. It’s very different, isn’t it? 

The good news is that breathing exercises can help you relax. Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. When you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down. When your brain gets that message, it can slow down the production of stress hormone Cortisol, and your body can really start to relax. Deep breathing decreases everything from elevated heart rate to high blood pressure. 

Not quite convinced? Read about how first responders use breathing exercises for stress management.
 
Breathing Techniques 

There are lots of breathing exercises you can do, from beginner to advanced levels. Let’s try one:
 
Belly Breathing

This is something simple that everyone should know. Try this basic exercise anytime you need to relax or relieve stress:

  1. Sit or lie flat in a comfortable position.
  2. Put one hand on your belly just below your ribs and the other hand on your chest.
  3. Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let your belly push your hand out. Your chest should not move.
  4. Breathe out through pursed lips as if you were whistling. Feel the hand on your belly go in as the breath is released. 
  5. Do this three to ten times. Take your time with each breath.
  6. Notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.

4-7-8 Breathing

After you have mastered basic belly breathing, you may want to try a more advanced belly breathing exercise. You can do this either sitting or lying down.

  1. Sit or lie flat in a comfortable position.
  2. Put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest as you did in the previous exercise.
  3. Take a deep, slow breath from your belly, and silently count to four as you breathe in.
  4. Hold your breath, and silently count from one to seven.
  5. Breathe out completely as you silently count from one to eight. Try to release all of the air from your lungs by the time you count to eight.
  6. Repeat three to seven times or until you feel calm.
  7. Notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.

Please keep in mind that caring for yourself is a vital part of being your best self for your loved one.  Remember, “Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”  If you need support, please reach out to any ComForCare or At Your Side location. We’re here for you: https://www.comforcare.com/locator.html

 

At Your Side is part of ComForCare,
with over 200 Locations Nationwide

If you are looking for care outside of the Houston area, please check our ComForCare site for locations.

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