Finding Balance in Your Life
It’s important for you to schedule time for yourself away from your caregiving activities. Some caregivers have difficulty doing this because they feel guilty or selfish, but finding a balance between your role as a caregiver and the rest of your personal life will make you a happier, healthier person and a better caregiver in the long run. Below are some strategies to help you find balance:
- Maintain your health
One of the most important things you can do as a caregiver is to take care of yourself. See your healthcare provider for regular check-ups, get whatever preventative screening tests are recommended (for example, mammogram or prostate exams), take your medications, get the flu shot, and give your own health the same level of attention you give your loved one.
While making time for regular exercise may seem like a luxury, physical activity is one of the best ways to improve health and reduce stress and depression. Getting exercise doesn’t mean you have to go to a gym – walking, gardening and even housework counts. If you can’t find a solid block of time, try to do 10-minute sessions of exercise throughout the day. While the idea of exercising when you’re feeling tired or overwhelmed may seem counterintuitive, it can improve your overall sense of well-being.
Adequate rest and sleep is essential for caregivers. It helps ward off health problems such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and depression. It gives you the energy and mental clarity you need to function well and handle your responsibilities.
- Eat healthy
Eating nutritious foods gives your body the fuel it needs to function. Learn to prepare simple, healthy meals. Following the guidelines for nutrition based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is all that’s needed unless you have a medical condition – such as diabetes or kidney disease – that may warrant specific dietary restrictions. General dietary recommendations include the following:
- Maintain a healthy caloric intake
- Eat whole grain breads and cereals
- Get enough protein (supplement with protein drinks if necessary)
- Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day; eating things of varying colors can provide a range of nutrients.
- Limit your intake of salty, sugary and fatty foods
- Drink enough fluids (generally 6-8 glasses day). In addition to water, you can include juice, tea, milk, soup, and frozen fruit bars.
- Plan leisure time
It’s important to find ways to make some time for yourself. Don’t give up enjoyable activities. Whether it’s participating in sports, hobbies, a book club, religious activities, or simply spending time with friends, leisure time helps you feel better and cope with the demands of caregiving, working, and raising a family. It helps you to stay connected and keeps your caregiving duties from always taking center stage.