Do you live with someone struggling with a mental illness? Are you a caregiver for an aging parent or seriously ill spouse? Do you have an active relationship with a close friend battling depression? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are caring for someone with special needs and are a “caregiver,” whether you call yourself that or not. You give of your time, your energy and your resources. And you show you care by “showing up” over and over again. A friend of mine says it takes “superhuman love and superhuman strength” to be a caregiver. I could not agree more.
But the truth is, caregivers are not superhuman. They get tired. They get sick. They have other people and responsibilities pulling at them outside of their caregiving duties. And, let’s face it, they need breaks too.
If you are a caregiver, here are 4 practical things you can do to take care of yourself:
- Take care of yourself: Try to eat well, get enough sleep each night and exercise regularly. Also, schedule time for yourself each week. (Hint: You may have to ask for help with this one. See number two.)
- Ask for help: Make a list of all of your caregiving responsibilities and see which ones you can ask others to help you with each week. Also, ask for help so that you can have a break, even if it is just to take a walk, sit in your back yard or read a book.
- Know your limits: Each week make a list of what needs to be done. If you feel there is too much on your plate ask for help in the form of family members, friends, health aides, visiting nurses, etc.
- Join a support group: Look for a support group related to your loved one’s illness. If you do not have the time to attend a group meeting, there may be an online community that can provide support in the form of resources and message boards.
If you are currently feeling overwhelmed, stressed, anxious and/or depressed in your caregiving role, a licensed mental health counselor can help. She can provide a warm and empathic environment where you can share your thoughts and feelings, gain insight and recharge for the upcoming week. You cannot take care of others if you are not taking good care of yourself. Don’t wait, please call Life Enhancement Counseling Services in Orlando today at 407-443-8862 to speak with an experienced licensed mental health counselor.