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Caregivers: Here’s How to Lighten Your Load in the New Year

It’s an irrefutable fact: you cannot be a caregiver for others unless you first take care of yourself. To ensure that next year brings you and your elderly loved ones true happiness, resolve to incorporate self-care into your daily lives. Staying healthy is one of the best gifts you can give your family, because it allows you to be a better, stronger and more supportive, spouse, sibling, parent and/or child, to those you love, including your senior parents.

Become a Stronger, More Capable Caregiver–by Prioritizing Self Care

Keep energy-sapping stress in check with these self-care tips:   

Guard Your Health

You need to be resilient to deal with life’s challenges successfully. So make it a priority to deal with any health concerns you may be struggling with, both physical and emotional/mental. See your physician if you haven’t lately, and address issues like pre-diabetes, extra weight, high cholesterol or poor eating habits. Similarly, seek care for depression or other mental health challenges in your life.

You may need to take an exercise class (for shaping up with peer support) or start walking to a chosen local landmark every day. You may need to look for alternative foods to improve your health, such as those lower in fat or sugar. Write down the necessary steps and schedule time to work towards health goals daily. Simply work towards a better you, for a short while each day. If you walk solo, listen to an audio book or your favorite music as you walk. Consider this an important meeting, or a date with yourself/for yourself, so your new habits won’t fall by the wayside.

Sleep Well and Deeply

Sleep hygiene can help you feel more rested, calm and ready for any caregiver issues that come your way. Sleep in a comfortable bed, in a dark, quiet room. Don’t eat, drink coffee or do computer work within four hours of bedtime. Consider creating a pre-bedtime ritual to wind down daily. Like drinking a cup of chamomile tea and/or reading a (not too exciting) book before bed. Getting a bit more exercise each day can make getting to sleep at night easier.

Journal (write down) your problems, and then literally close the book on them, so you can sleep peacefully without ruminating. Note at least one thing you’re grateful for each day. (You need not do this right before bed.) Go to bed at the same time (and wake at the same time) all week to establish a routine.

Indulge Yourself a Little Each Day

Taking some “me time” can do wonders for your overall energy level, helping you to feel calm and in control, so you can bounce back from adversity, make the most of opportunities and be a stellar caregiver. Schedule a few minutes daily, a few hours weekly, a day now and then, and a week-long vacation (or stay-cation) a few times per year. Take a yoga class, learn to meditate, go for massages or mani-pedis, play tennis or squash—do what you enjoy on a regular basis! Go solo or include a supportive, fun friend or spouse. Go to a museum, movie, play, art class. fishing, playing cards—anything to relax and expand your horizons in a care-free way.

Enjoy Time with Elderly Parents or Senior Relatives

If you normally spend most of your time with these folks dealing with serious issues or being the caregiver, set some of that aside. Make sure some of your get-togethers are just for fun. Enjoy your time together and make memories. In fact, you can forge an even better relationship with your parent(s) than you had in the past if you take time for fun shared activities and/or real conversations. Do some of the “indulge yourself” activities with mom or dad!