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Caregiving is hard and may lead to feelings of stress, guilt, anger, sadness, isolation and depression. As a caregiver, it’s easy to forget about your own needs. But keeping up your energy and maintaining your health are critical to caring for your loved one. A caregiver’s physical, emotional and mental health is vital to the well-being of the person you are caring for. To be a good caregiver, be good to yourself.
The following suggestions may help keep you from feeling overwhelmed or burned out.
- Take care of your body. Make time to exercise, eat healthy foods, stay hydrated and get enough sleep. Get regular medical checkups. This includes dental checkups. Know about the signs of depression, and watch for them not only in the person you are caring for, but also in yourself. If you have feelings of lingering sadness or hopelessness, talk with your doctor.
- Recognize the signs of stress. Signs of stress may include feeling exhausted all of the time; getting sick more often than usual; not sleeping enough; feeling impatient, irritable or forgetful; not enjoying the activities you used to enjoy; and withdrawing from people. If you find that you are constantly stressed, explore new ways to provide care and seek help from others. Learn more about managing stress.
- Make time for yourself and other relationships. Spending time doing something you enjoy may give you a much-needed break so you can continue to be an effective caregiver. It is also important to spend time with other people who are important to you so that you can maintain those supportive relationships.
- Be kind and patient with yourself. Many caregivers experience occasional bouts of anger or frustration and then feel guilty for having these feelings. Try to find positive ways of coping with these difficult feelings, such as talking with supportive friends and exercising. Journaling is another positive outlet.
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