Caregivers often fall into the trap of neglecting
to give themselves a little TLC while looking after others. So it's
vital that parents make sure they get what they need, says Todd
Whitthorne, executive director of the Cooper Wellness program.
"They think that by doing something for themselves, they
are limiting their positive impact on the patient, but they've got
to take a step back and realize if they're not taking care of
themselves, then they are actually doing more harm than good,"
Here are some simple things you can do to give yourself a
- Eat right and exercise. It sounds
elementary, but many caregivers don't take the time to eat balanced
and nutritious meals and instead just eat whatever is available.
While healthy eating and exercise are important for the general
population, they're critical for those who have the added stresses
of looking after someone else.
- Get out and get moving. Speaking of
exercise, Whitthorne says, "We know without question, the best
natural and physiological outlet for stress is physical activity."
Finding time to take a brisk 15- to 30-minute walk can get your
blood circulating, not to mention providing a change of scenery. If
you can't find the extra half hour, just stepping out briefly for
stretching and a breath of fresh air can help tremendously. The
experts at Cooper Wellness even suggest going on virtual walks
online to keep caregivers from feeling cooped up.
- Give yourself little rewards. Plan small
things you look forward to. Set aside time at the end of the day
when you can do something you enjoy-like reading a book-for at
least half an hour. Allow yourself breaks for naps or baths or
longer breaks for an outing or dinner.
- Just ask. Sometimes caregivers don't
like to burden others by requesting help. "All you have to do is
ask. Don't be shy," Whitthorne says. Contact neighbors, family
members, someone from church or people both you and your child are
comfortable with, and you might be surprised by how many people are
willing to help. Set up a regular schedule. A half-hour here and
there can alleviate your stress. If that isn't possible, simply
having someone who will listen as you share or vent can help