Giving Care by Taking Care
Most of us will find ourselves in the role of caregiver at some point in our lives. Perhaps, your job involves caring for others whether it be through nursing, social work, police work, therapy, and so on. At some point in all of our lives, we will assume the role of caregiver for ailing family members, elderly parents or of our children who are ill or who have special needs. Caregiving can take its toll on the caregiver and so it is critical that steps be taken to preserve the well-being of the caregiver so that he or she is better able to provide all of the duties and tasks involved in caring for their loved one.
For those of you who have travelled by plane, you will recall that prior to take off, the flight attendants demonstrate safety measures and emergency precautions. One of the main points is that should air pressure change in the cabin, oxygen masks will drop from the compartment above and you will have only moments to get the mask on your face to ensure oxygen levels. If you are travelling with a child or someone else who requires assistance, you are instructed to put your mask on first before attempting to put their mask on. The reason for this is that if you struggle to get their mask on, you might be out of time to get yours on and well, you know what happens when you haven’t any oxygen.
This is an excellent analogy when it comes to self-care for caregivers. In order to care for others, we must take good care of ourselves. Caregiver burnout is rampant, as we were not designed to continuously give of ourselves physically and emotionally, day in and day out with relief. Prevention is key and should you find yourself in the caregiver role, there are several simple things you can do to prevent or heal from burnout.
1. Talk It Out.
Share your feelings with a clergy person, a counsellor, your doctor or Nurse Practitioner, a social worker, or someone who is in a similar situation who can understand the stresses. Also, there are many online forums, which can provide support. You are not alone although sometimes it can be very isolating.
It has been proven again and again that exercise can combat stress, anxiety and depression with as much success, in many cases, as prescription medications. Couple the exercise with counselling and you have a winning combination.
3. Watch Your Diet.
A diet that is made up of stimulants like coffee, white sugar and processed foods can do a number on your body’s ability to cope with stress. Make sure you are eating lots of fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Swap your white rice and pasta for whole grain and experiment with herbal teas like green tea to reduce the effects of caffeine on your already stressed out system.
4. Support Your System.
Taking a good quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement and making sure to incorporate a high potency B-complex vitamin into your diet will give you extra nutrients that may be lacking due to the stress
you are under. Always inform your medical or naturopathic doctor as to what medications/supplements you are taking.
This does not have to involve awkward positions and chanting although it can. If you commit to even 5 minutes in the beginning to sitting comfortably without interruption and allow yourself to take in slow, deep breaths, you can lower your blood pressure and promote a state of relaxation that will reduce the stress you are experiencing. Gradually increase the time to 10, 20 and even 30 minutes per day of practice.