According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, more than 40 million Americans provide care to an elderly or disabled person every year. Taking care of a loved one can be difficult, especially when you have other time-consuming responsibilities, such as managing your relationship with your spouse, looking after your children, or building your career. You may feel overwhelmed and frustrated at times, and you may even neglect yourself. It’s harder to care for others if you do not maintain your own physical, emotional, and mental health and happiness, so consider these strategies for help:
- Assess your level of self-care and identify places where you may need improvement. Are you eating well? Are you sleeping enough? Are you exercising regularly? These habits are essential for good health and mental wellbeing and will help keep your body running at its best.
- Have a plan in place for when you start to feel burned out. Your plan can include taking a break to relax, asking for help, or treating yourself to an activity you enjoy.
- Learn how to recognize and cope with negative feelings and be honest about what you feel. Recognize that these are common human emotions, and it is okay to have them. Forgive yourself and move on.
- Build a personal support system which may include family, friends, religious groups, organizations and anyone who makes you laugh, stay grounded, provides valuable information and/ or advice, or just listens when you need to vent. Having a strong support network helps us feel loved and cared for, which can help reduce stress.
- Recognize the role and importance of humor and laughter. Humor and laughter can take negatives and turn them into positives, so look for humor in all things, good and bad.
Find more tips and resources at Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Family Caregiver Toolkit here.