Family caregivers are often on an emotional roller coaster. Caring for a loved one can be endearing because you are helping and showing your love and commitment. However, there’s another side to it that is very stressful from finding the right resources and being in a constant care mode where worry and exhaustion often take over.
While often juggling physical as well as emotional demands, caregivers can be at significant risk for health problems, including mental and emotional strain. Some recognize the risks and symptoms but are still less likely to practice preventive healthcare and self-care behavior.
Here are a few symptoms to be aware of:
Lack of mental clarity
Poor eating habits
Lack of exercise
High blood pressure and cholesterol are two top health conditions as a result of the stress. Getting physically weaker and weight gain are as well.
When I speak with other caregivers, I hear over and over again the reasons why self-care doesn’t happen:
I feel selfish if I take the time to do things for myself
I don’t have time to take care of/do things for myself
I am afraid others will judge me for taking time for myself
No one else will be able to care for my loved one if I don’t
This isn’t about condemning anyone for not practicing self-care because I understand. I was there. I get it. So trust me when I say this; getting out of the cycle of personal neglect can be difficult, but necessary.
What can you do? Something as simple as walking can make a significant change in your overall health and mental well being. It’s a way to take back some control in your own life and ultimately beneficially for everyone. By restoring your emotional and physical energy and walking releases endorphins that enhance your sense of overall well being.
To get the benefits, start by walking 20 minutes a day three times a week and increase as you can. Often I would add 20 minutes to my grocery store run and stopped by a park. If you’re working, take your lunch hour and get out and move. And if you’re in the area of one of our walks, find a way to join us. You’ll gain physical and emotional benefits by being with other caregivers. The support is powerful.
One step at a time, open the way.