At some point in each of our lives, we will be caregivers – for a pet, child, aging parents or a spouse that is ill.

It’s part of being a human, and it’s challenging when it happens.

Since his recent leukemia diagnosis, I have become a full-time caregiver for my husband. 

And as such, I am participating in a study through Princess Margaret Hospital titled “Exploring informal caregivers’ appraisal of their role and mechanisms influencing their resilience.”  

In the first of four conversations, I realized I have the tools from my past to help deal with this.

Life has thrown me many curveballs between near-death experiences, injuries and accidents, caring for and losing loved ones.

Yet, through it all, a positive mindset is something I fully embrace in the quest for optimal health.  

Positivity aside, it isn’t easy watching someone you love suffer without being affected mentally and physically.

When you’re a caretaker, it’s essential to prioritize your health and wellness because your loved ones need your strength when they can’t muster it themselves.  

Here are three tips for managing your health while caring for another that I’ve used personally and shared with my clients to support themselves when they go through this to be better caregivers: 

1. Have a good self-care practice in place. 

Your stress levels will be at an all-time high. Having a daily routine, even a habit of play, that includes time for yourself is crucial.  

Other things like meditating, journaling, taking a hot bath, yoga, going for a walk, getting enough sleep, keeping hydrated and eating healthy foods.  

Don’t set the bar so high that you have an excuse not to do it, so keep it simple. Every self-care practice starts with the first step. Can you walk for 5 minutes?  

2. Ask for help. 

While helping someone you love through a challenging situation can feel isolating, and when times are tough, the first thing people want to do is “do something” to help. Let them.  

Family, friends and neighbours want to help. 

“Resilient communities are those in which people can rely on each other, trust each other, ask for help and pull each other through hard times. And these times are certainly tough. They remind us how much we all need each other—and how much caring—not just caregiving—is critical to our individual and collective wellbeing.”*

A face-to-face visit or a phone call can be the boost you didn’t know you needed. Alternatively, say “yes” when people offer to deliver a meal.

3. Get outside. 

Especially when you feel emotionally drained, spending time outside makes a huge difference, even if you only have time to take a few deep breaths. 

Taking deep breaths can directly affect the overall activity level of the brain. 

This means that “slow, deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain to the abdomen and is in charge of turning off the “fight or flight” reflex.” The vagus nerve uses the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which activates your parasympathetic nervous system’s “relaxation” response to calm you down.”**

So even in situations where you are feeling overwhelmed, you can achieve a sense of calm through your breath.

Realize that it’s not your job to fix things. You are the co-pilot helping to navigate for the person on their journey.

If this process, as a caregiver, is teaching me anything, it’s to live in the beautiful moments that we have each other – and know that you are never alone.  

While my time and energy are caring for him, I know looking after myself will only improve my caregiving. 

Keep looking after yourself, promise me❤️

Your friend and coach,

Janet 

 

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*https://www.forbes.com/sites/tracybrower/2021/08/14/caregiving-is-crucial-how-to-support-caregivers-and-why-it-matters-so-much/?sh=2516d44d1b84
**https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2021/03/03/why-deep-breathing-relaxes-your-brain/?sh=35a4015679dc