Whether you volunteered or you had a responsibility to be a caregiver, you’re a hero. Let’s be real: you’re doing your best for the people you care about, but we bet you tend to forget about yourself too. It’s okay to take some time for yourself to recharge. After all, how are you able to best care for others when you’re not taking care of you?
Sometimes it can be hard for us to admit when we need some taking care of too. Many of us feel guilty for putting our needs in front of others’, or feel that we simply don’t have the time. However, here are some warning signs that you should definitely keep an eye out for. Here’s an infographic for you to share with others, and our article is just below it!
- You start feeling really, really upset, resentful, or frustrated with caregiving, and you’re beginning to take it out on people (or yourself).
- Suddenly, everyone and everything seems to be gratingly irritating. Small things upset you, and you lash out. You do your caretaker duties in a huff, and you start being resentful. “Why do I have to do everything?” seems to be one of the most common thoughts you have.
- Emotional burn-out is a common and legitimate concern for caregivers. While you may still have the physical energy to perform your regular duties, you’re not engaged, and it almost seems like you’re angry, tired, or even disconnected.
- If you’re able to, you may want to step away from caregiving for a short period of time to recharge. You can even choose to have some “time out” for yourself in your own space. Friends, family, and other relatives can and should step in sometimes: caretaking isn’t a one-person job. If you are able to get other external help, do consider that option.
- If you can’t step away from your duties, you can and should make pockets of “me time” throughout the day where you can allow yourself to rest. Even when we take rest periods, we spend most of it worrying about what to do next instead of actually resting. Remember, the rest is for you to feel better. By creating space within your daily schedule for yourself only, you can separate yourself mentally and emotionally.
- You feel like there’s never enough sleep: you’re constantly exhausted and drained.
- More people are familiar with this aspect of burn-out. Perpetual physical exhaustion is a sure sign that one needs proper physical rest. This also comes in the form of falling sick more often, growing aches and pains, and perhaps feeling like you need a bit of caregiving yourself! If you’ve been putting off a doctor’s appointment because you’re too busy, or because “other things are more important”, now’s a really good time to go. An emergency will make things even more stressful, so it’s always best to not let it get to that point.
- It may be more convenient to eat what’s readily available, but your health is also paramount. Eat well too! One of our favorite tips is to “eat a rainbow” every day: eat fruits and vegetables across the colors of the rainbow to make sure you get your nutrients. A multi-vitamin may also help you.
- Request help with the small things. A whole list of to-dos may seem incredibly onerous, but if you can ask a neighbour to help with groceries, a relative to come and keep you company, or even a family friend to help with the chores. People want to help; it’s up to you to tell them how.
- Communication has broken down, or stopped.
- Maybe you’ve stopped talking altogether. You also don’t communicate much with your friends, and you’ve been so busy you’re isolated from your community. Your life revolves around your duties.
- If it’s okay with the person that you’re caring for, invite people over for tea and a chat during a free period of the day. We unconsciously carry so much weight on our shoulders that we forget just how liberating a hot tea and a warm friendly voice can be. If you can get a fellow caregiver to come help out, that’s nice too.
- Support groups for caregivers also exist! Sometimes you may be isolated because people may not understand the unique struggles you face. Small groups of people that come together on a regular basis in your area may get you to socialise more, and provide you with the kind of mental and emotional support you need. These groups may also have their own suggestions for how to cope with other challenges.
- Do you have hand tremors and have to take care of people too?
- You have a hard enough time trying to handle your own shakes, and you’re also trying your best to care for others. You haven’t had the time or the energy to think about how to make it easier for yourself. You need a break!
- Your paramount concern is safety. Caregiving itself is quite strenuous, and having to manage that and hand tremors can sometimes be dangerous, especially if you are responsible for home-making duties. Treat yourself to gadgets and appliances that may make the process easier.
- Silicone hand guards for cutting vegetables, blenders, and heavy rounded spoons are just some of the things you can find on online shops like Amazon. These provide a level of safety and convenience for you in the kitchen. If you can get a Roomba, or an automated vacuum cleaner, that also saves you a lot of time and energy. Alternately, getting a helper to help bulk prepare meals, laundry, etc, for the week ahead may ease your workload.
- Most of all, stay safe by resting: we’re more prone to making mistakes when we’re tired. Remember to take your medication if you have it, and always schedule rest periods throughout the day.
You’re just as important as the person you’re caring for. No one wants to see you struggle, and more often than not, people around you want to help. There’s no guilt in marshaling the resources around you, and often you have more than you think. After all, we aren’t made to be solitary creatures. Reach out and you may find that things become a lot easier for you.