Caregiver self-care: Tips to help address your emotional health
Caregiving for a loved one can put a strain on even the most resilient people. Add in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and it has the potential to feel challenging. This means that finding ways to thrive and continue to take care of your own well-being can be more important than ever.
It can be hard to cope at times. Fortunately, there are several resources that may help you take care of your emotional health while also keeping safety top of mind.
Recognize how you’re feeling
No matter what your particular situation might be, caregiving may take a toll on your physical, mental and emotional well-being. The Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) encourages you to express and try to address all of your emotions, especially the tough ones. Try to identify the emotions you’re experiencing; this might include everything from fear, to guilt, to resentment. It’s important to remember that these emotions are normal and not something to be ashamed of.
To best take care of others, addressing your own needs – both physical and emotional – is essential. There are several tools and resources available to help you maintain your own well-being and make time for self-care:
Virtual mental health visits
Consider scheduling a virtual visit with a licensed therapist or psychiatrist. If you already see a mental health provider, contact him or her to see if you can continue sessions online or over the phone. You can also get support by speaking to a trained counselor at SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 / TTY 711 or by texting TalkWithUS to 66746. Or download the Sanvello app on your phone, which has plenty of resources for taking care of yourself.
Take advantage of free exercise programs
Create and follow a healthy daily routine
Keep your schedule consistent when it comes to meals and bedtime. Get enough sleep, aiming for seven to nine hours a night, recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Maintain a healthy diet and try to stay active with walks, yoga, gardening or other activities. Carve out time during the day to focus on your breathing, stretch or meditate.
Knowing important information about the ongoing pandemic and how to be safe may reduce stress and help calm anxieties. However, too much exposure to news coverage may lead to greater feelings of anxiety or panic. Try to limit your research to reliable sources, such as the CDC and the World Health Organization. And keep up with recommendations from your local public health authorities.
Talking to your loved one
Chances are, the person you’re caring for may have similar feelings and fears. The Mental Health Foundation says, “talking about your feelings isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s part of taking charge of your well-being and doing what you can to stay healthy.”
If stress gets in the way of your daily activities for an extended period of time (defined as several days in a row), the CDC recommends calling your health care provider.
Get more helpful resources on caregiving.