It is only a few weeks into the New Year and you may have made resolutions for yourself. So many people resolve to lose a few pounds, workout more, and eat healthier.  All wonderful resolutions and at times can be difficult to maintain for the average person, let alone the caregiver.

Let’s face it, who doesn’t live a busy life with possibly too many commitments and family members counting on us for various things. Whether you are a parent, grandparent, you work a full-time job or fully retired, we all have our list of things that need to be accomplished every day or weekly.  

If you are a caregiver, the list may not truly be your own, as at times your needs and wishes may need to come slightly lower on the list, after caring for your loved one. True?  Well, possibly but maybe not as black and white as you may think.

As a caregiver, you are taking care of the needs of your loved one in addition to your own. Does that mean that your needs are any less important? Absolutely not, and in fact it is quite the opposite. It is vital that we, as caregivers, take very good care of ourselves and our health. Our loved ones depend on it.  Too many caregivers feel a sense of guilt when they need a short break to get to the gym or go for a walk around the block. They feel as if they are letting their loved on down, and may be needed. The truth of the matter is, your loved one needs you to go out and take care of yourself, to keep healthy and relieve any stress that you may be holding.

I am a full-time caregiver for my loved one, in addition to running a business full time. So technically I hold two full time jobs. Initially, I was feeling some guilt if I needed a break to go to the gym or simply take a long walk. It is natural for a caregiver to put themselves last, however the consequences of caregiver stress are quite serious. 60% of caregivers reported poor health (more than double non-caregivers) and 45% of caregivers report serious health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and arthritis (again this is nearly double those who are not caregivers).

Reducing stress is not just suggested for caregivers, it is essential.  You need to do this for you and for your loved one.  So what are some of the changes you can make this New Year?

  • Get help where you can and stop trying to do it all yourself. Reach out to friends, family or your church if you belong to one.
    • Get help where you can outside of caring for your loved one – if you can hire someone to come in and do heavy cleaning, laundry, etc. If you can’t financially afford a cleaning person, maybe a “mothers helper” which would be slightly more affordable.
  • Take some time for yourself every single day
    1. Exercise or take a walk
    2. Meditation or prayer
    3. Read a book or magazine
    4. Call a friend or better yet, meet for a coffee

The bottom line is very simple, you need to find small and manageable ways to make time for yourself. The analogy that I like to use with my own clients is the oxygen mask on the airplane. If you don’t put your own mask on first, you certainly won’t be able to help those around you who may need your help. There is no guilt in that!  Just keep reminding yourself that small changes lead to larger and lasting results.

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