How to Care for Yourself as an Unpaid Family Caregiver

Providing care for a loved one can be extremely fulfilling. You’re dedicating a large portion of your time and energy to take care of someone else’s needs – it’s a wonderful, selfless thing. However, despite the positives, it’s impossible to dismiss the realities of caregiving. Being a Caregiver will most likely impose various emotional, physical, and financial burdens. It’s easy to get lost in the act of caring for someone else and forget to prioritize your own needs and so being a caregiver may increase vulnerability to injury and illness. Overall, it’s impossible to take care of another person if you don’t make sure to take care of yourself first.

How to Care for Yourself

If you’re a caregiver, your well-being should be a priority every day. Follow the suggested steps below to care for yourself and stay healthy:

  1. Do your research on the effects of caregiving – take the time to learn about what it takes to be a caregiver and consider the impact this will have on your well-being.
  2. Make sure you get enough sleep on a regular basis (ideally 7-8 hours every night) – too little sleep can affect two essential competencies for caregivers- judgment and memory.
  3. Maintain a healthy diet – this is essential to keep your energy up and prevent weight gain.
  4. Get at least 20 minutes of exercise a day – exercise is important to maintain a healthy weight and to help clear your mind during stressful times. In addition, regular exercise greatly improves your overall health and wellbeing.
  5. Find others you can discuss caregiving with and share resources – build a network of other caregivers who can provide guidance and support.
  6. Visit your doctor for regular checkups – your doctor can help monitor your health and give you medical advice. This is important as you need to think of yourself first to make sure you are physically, mentally, and emotionally capable of caring for another.
  7. Know that your role is critical and valuable – recognizing the importance of your role will help serve as motivation whenever challenges arise.
  8. Ask for help when you need it – it is not brave to remain silent and take the entire burden on yourself so reach out to friends, family, and other loved ones to help.
  9. Schedule some daily me time away from caregiving– find time to de-stress in order to ensure you don’t get emotionally exhausted. Consider doing some mindfulness activities and schedule some ‘me time’ to do what relaxes you (reading, running, listening to music, etc.).

Remember, it’s important not to lose focus on yourself and your own needs. Caregiving is an important job but you can only be helpful if you stay healthy.