Caring for Yourself While Caring for Others
Caregiving can be physically and mentally exhausting which is why caring for yourself is one of the most important actions you can take as a carer. While caring for your family member is a selfless act which shows your love and commitment, continuous care demands can be extremely stressful. For the majority of adults, at some point of their lives, they will care for a family member or friend, however, the impact on wellbeing, health, and finances is often underestimated (1). Family carers of any age are less likely than non-carers to practice preventative healthcare and self-care behaviour. Carers often report experiencing issues such as sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, reluctance to exercise, refuse rest when they are ill, and the postponement or failure to make medical appointments for themselves (2).
Oftentimes, attitudes and beliefs can form barriers around caring for yourself. It is important to identify and address these barriers to begin removing them. A common thought among carers is often, “Am I being selfish for wanting a break? For wanting to put myself first?” The answer of course is no. You cannot pour from an empty cup and therefore it is necessary to take time for yourself to recharge. Give yourself time to work through the stress you’ve been carrying. In Emily and Amelia Nagoski’s book, Burnout, they outline strategies on completing the stress cycle and returning to a state of relaxation. Some of the strategies mentioned include taking time to move your body (whether it’s jumping up and down, dancing it out, or a 15-minute workout), having a good cry, a bellyaching laugh with a friend, a long hug with a loved one, or taking a nap.
Do you have a family member, a friend, a neighbour who can assist you or take over for a few hours a week? When someone has offered to help you, how often have you responded with, “Thanks for offering but I’m fine.”? Don’t wait until you’re exhausted or overwhelmed to accept help. Asking for help when you need it is a sign of strength. Think of the small jobs that add up. Could your neighbour pick up some food items while at the grocery store? Could your family member help with filling out insurance forms? There are so many ways your community of people would be willing to help.
If you find yourself emotional eating more often, know that food and eating is one of the many ways to deal with negative emotions. There is a time for processing emotions however it is unrealistic to think we can do that all day every day. Eating is an acceptable way of dealing with emotions and can bring a sense of comfort. While emotional eating is not bad for you, it can become a problem if it is your only coping mechanism. If you struggle with emotional eating, it’s important to learn new coping skills and/or going to therapy to learn new ways of coping without food.
During this time of being a carer, it can be difficult to be as social as you would usually be with friends and family. However, it is important to keep these social connections to feel less isolated. Additionally, there are many websites to turn to which offer support for carers and a space to share your journey and realise you are not alone and that others are going through similar experiences.
This website offers a platform for a community of carers in all situations.
Emily and Amelia Nagoski feature on Brene Brown’s podcast, Unlocking Us, where they discuss experiencing burnout and completing the stress cycle.
Information this week by: Kirstyn Church, an Associate Nutritionist with Nutrition Consulting Services. Tru Valu Supermarket is one of the leading grocery chains in Trinidad and Tobago with five stores and the best customers. Have a question? Email us firstname.lastname@example.org.