When you take on a caregiving role for an elderly relative, self-care is also something that needs to be prioritized. Making time for yourself ensures you have the ability to be there for your loved one.
This is especially important for adult children of aging parents who are also first responders, and are therefore tasked with caring for others both on the job and on the homefront.
Here are 5 ways you can better manage caregiver stress:
- Practice healthy habits.
- Be physically active.
- Eat well.
- Start a hobby.
- Hire help.
Practice healthy habits
Being responsible for others in a caregiving role can be physically, mentally, and emotionally trying. According to SAMHSA, it's critical that you keep your stress and anxiety under control. This might mean making time to socialize with friends and family, taking up a creative pursuit, or looking for ways in which you and your loved one can relax and spend time together in a way that's non-stress producing. Regular activities like yoga, meditation, and relaxation breathing can all help ensure you have the stamina and the peace of mind to be able to manage caring for others.
Be Physically Active
It can be tough to work in trips to the gym between your first responder role and your caregiving role, so you may need to build in physical activity wherever you can. According to the World Health Organization, exercise has numerous health benefits. Do something fun like hiking, bike riding, or dancing, or schedule an exercise class at a certain time each day so you can set aside time that's just for you. If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed in a caregiving capacity, consult your physician about potential counseling services, or even anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications that may help you cope during this particularly challenging time of life.
While you're likely preparing healthy meals for your loved one, it’s important that you feed yourself right as well. Try to avoid fast foods, particularly those that are high in sodium, fat, and sugar. Instead, opt for whole foods, fresh produce, lean meats and dairy, and grains and legumes. Also limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine. Both can have an impact on your emotional and mental well-being and can also impact your sleep. Getting enough quality rest is essential to ensuring you can take care of all of your responsibilities on a daily basis.
Start a Hobby
Your mind needs something to think about besides your caregiver role. Consider learning how to play a musical instrument, how to paint with watercolors, or take up gardening. Anything that you can do to switch gears and have some personal relaxation time will help you be a better overall caregiver. Don't feel selfish about taking this time for yourself. The more you care for yourself, the better prepared you are to help others. You may even find some enjoyable hobbies that your loved one would like doing with you.
There's no way that you can handle everything on your own, so prioritize tasks in the home that only you can do, and then hire out support for the other things. For example, find someone to handle grocery delivery, pet walking, and housekeeping. You can also hire someone to clean your windows and give you a literal fresh perspective. These professionals have the right equipment and can do things safely and well. While window cleaning services average about $260, the final cost will depend on the number and type of windows you have, how easy they are to access, and how dirty they are. Search, “professional window washers near me.”
Caring for a loved one, particularly if you're someone in a first responder role, can be both mentally and emotionally taxing, while also very rewarding. Pace yourself, ask for help when needed, and set aside time for yourself to rest and recharge.
Code 3 Counseling helps first responders and their families manage emotions that come with high-stress occupations. Visit the site to access resources including a wellness newsletter and an informational podcast.
If you found this post relatable, and are in need of some extra personal support, our counselors at Code 3 Counseling specialize in supporting first responders, military members and their families as they juggle other life obligations. We also provide a host of helpful resources. Don't hesitate to reach out today for a free consultation.
This post was written for Code 3 Counseling by Jason Lewis.