Caregiving is not an easy job. However, the past two years have been especially difficult for caregivers, and symptoms of physical and emotional exhaustion have aggravated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Burnout is a common condition among caregivers and can put both the caregivers and those under their care at risk.
Burnout can lead to moodiness and irritability when under pressure. It can weaken the immune system, and cause many other problems such as unexplained weight gain, migraines, digestive issues and more. It often results from self-neglect.
As a caregiver, it is crucial not to neglect yourself. Self-care for caregivers is crucial and will help avoid any incidents that could jeopardize you or your client.
Here are a few self care tips to help you avoid burnout and keep healthy and happy:
1. Be Self-compassionate
Caregivers are committed professionals and may often feel guilty about taking breaks. However, caregivers need to be kind to themselves also. They need to accept that what they do is not easy, that they are doing the best they can, and that need to take a break now and then to recharge.
It is not selfish to take time off for yourself. Taking a few minutes off to reorient yourself every day is necessary. It will reduce stress and keep you happier, energized and efficient. One of the simplest ways to do this is to put daily reminders/alarms in your phone to take a break or add a self-care break to your list of daily tasks for your client.
2. Practice Deep Breathing
Controlled deep breathing is a self-care tip recommended by many professionals. It doesn’t take more than 10 minutes and can do wonders to reduce your stress and avoid burnout. Here is one of the many breathing routines you can practice every day :
- Find a comfortable seat or a floor cushion to sit on.
- Close your eyes and relax. Your thoughts may distract you but that’s normal.
- Focus on your breathing.
- Breathe in through your nose. Hold it in for a few seconds, and then exhale.
- You can complete this cycle in fifteen seconds. If it is uncomfortable you can reduce this time.
- Repeat and continue for ten minutes. You can use a timer to prompt you.
3. Eating and Sleeping Well
One of the main reasons for caregiver burnout and stress is the lack of proper meals. It is common for caregivers to ignore their diet and not have regular meals.
Skipping meals can lead to irritability and lethargy. Caregivers may also take shortcuts and opt for unhealthy snacks. You must eat a balanced diet and avoid processed foods and food with highly refined sugar. Cutting these will not only give you more mental and physical energy but also reduce the risk of diseases such as inflammation, arthritis and diabetes.
Dehydration can be another issue that can lead to fatigue, irritability and burnout. You should avoid sugary and caffeinated drinks and drink a lot of water every day. You can download many free apps on your mobile phone which can help you track your daily food intake and give you hydration reminders.
Lastly, you must get enough sleep every day. Sleep relaxes the body and regulates its functions. To improve your quality of sleep, take some time to relax before sleeping. You can do some yoga, breathing exercises, or meditation to enhance your sleep quality. Reduce your alcohol intake as it can negatively affect your sleep.
4. Mind-Body Exercises
Meditative exercises, such as yoga and tai chi can reduce stress and help with clearing up the mind. They are easy to do, can be carried out any time or anywhere, and do not need any special equipment.
Caregivers often cannot identify when they are stressed. These exercises can help you increase your awareness of your mind and body and their responses, and avoid burnout and stress.
Even if you are not familiar, you can easily learn basic techniques for exercises such as Yoga from youtube or a mobile app. You can even join online classes.
5. Stay Connected
Caregivers often become so absorbed in providing care to their clients that they become disconnected from friends and family.
It can be challenging for caregivers to remain social. However, maintaining social connections is one of the best tip for self care for caregivers
You must make an effort to keep connected with your friends and family. If physical meetings are not possible or not safe, you can still do this online. If you have a limited social circle, you can join one of the many support networks available for caregivers across Canada.
Caregivers need to practice self-compassion and take care of themselves. It will keep them healthy, avoid burnout, and helps them provide better care of their elderly clients. If you are working for an agency, make sure that you are regularly communicating with them to let them know if you are feeling stress and burnout, and make sure that your placements allow you a chance to take regular breaks for self-care.