2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, especially those who serve as caregivers to immuno-compromised family members or friends. Having to navigate safe ways to engage and care for your sick loved one has become increasingly complex and often stressful. That’s why at the start of a new year, it can be helpful to set some new goals for yourself, to make sure you’re taking care of your own well-being! We put together a list of resolutions that address common obstacles many caregivers face. Read below for six ways to practice self-care in 2021.
- Focus on Your Own Physical and Mental Health
When you spend so much time thinking about your loved one’s welfare, it’s easy to forget about your own health needs! It’s important to follow through with your appointments, screenings, and exams, to make sure you’re feeling your best. Maybe you also have some health-related goals you’d like to achieve: weight loss, physical fitness, lowering your cholesterol, or finding a therapist. The sooner you take care of your own health needs, the better you’ll feel and the more equipped you’ll be to care for your loved one.
- Prioritize Sleep
We tend to underestimate just how much sleep affects our overall health. For caregivers who are juggling multiple responsibilities, it’s even more difficult to get the recommended seven to eight hours of shut-eye nightly. Getting enough sleep is vital to improving your health and happiness. Try starting small, by setting your bedtime 30 minutes earlier than usual, then add another 15 minutes and so on until you’re logging at least seven hours of sleep each night. You can also get a smartwatch that will help to track your sleep so you can identify healthier patterns. Fitbit Sense gives you a daily look at your light, deep, REM, and awake times, and you can check in on how your night compares to the last month and other people your age.
- Take Time for Yourself Every Day
There are many ways to find time for yourself, even when you’re incredibly busy! Here are some quick ways to find “me-time” in your schedule:
- Take micro-breaks throughout the day – they will help reduce stress when you’re short on time.
- Do a two-minute meditation, breathing exercise, or relaxing exercise.
- Try a five-minute stretch first thing in the morning or right before bed. Check out Verywell Fit’s post on “8 Relaxing Total Body Stretches” for ideas.
- Escape from reality with a good book, magazine, or podcast. You can even listen to something during your commute.
- Connect with friends or family members through phone calls, video chats, or walks.
- Plan Ahead
No one wants to think about death, but it’s incredibly important to have a plan in place ahead of time. You may be surprised by how relieved you feel once this is solidified. Check to see if your loved one has a living will, durable power-of-attorney, and a last will and testament set up. If they do not, make an appointment to speak with an attorney. Having these documents in place will give you and your friend or family member some peace-of-mind to handle emergency medical situations that may arise, and a sense of comfort about the inevitable future.
- Delegate Where You Can
Do you have any siblings, children, friends, or family members that could help share some responsibilities? Even if they don’t live nearby, they can help by being responsible for paying a loved one’s bills or checking in with their doctors, or even setting up a weekly call to help ensure your sick friend or family member is getting regular social contact. You may try to do everything yourself, but it’s important to ask for help so that you don’t burn yourself out. You might even be surprised how willing people are to step up and take on a new task, so make sure to be ready with suggestions!
- Be Kind to Yourself
It is important that you acknowledge and respect your own emotions and stress level. It is normal to feel overwhelmed at times and happy during other times. Show yourself some kindness and know that your feelings are valid! Take a deep inhale and work to assess why you are feeling that way and what you can do to change it.