Contributed by Christine Binney
Serving as a caregiver for a loved one is a rewarding experience, but it can also lend itself to high levels of stress and anxiety. Sometimes, the pressures of caregiving can leave you feeling overworked and overwhelmed. You may have moments where you wonder how you can effectively care for someone else when your own well-being is at risk. Luckily, there are some tried-and-true ways to save your sanity while caregiving. By following these tips, you’ll be able to remain a devoted caregiver who can keep cool and calm under pressure.
1. Have a systematic schedule
Staying organized is one of the best ways to save your sanity while caregiving. Having a structured system in place that allows you to manage your loved one’s doctor appointments, medication schedules, therapy sessions and errands is crucial for their health and well-being. Just as important, you need a system to integrate your caregiving schedule into your personal, work and family schedule. Nothing can drive you crazier than learning that you accidentally triple-booked your afternoon. Find a tool that works for you like a physical date book, an online website or a calendar app for your smartphone. Whatever system you choose, remember to update regularly and share with others as necessary.
2. Don’t go it alone
Nobody can, or should, shoulder the burden of caregiving alone. It’s important to develop a strong network of family, friends, colleagues and neighbors who can rally together in times of crisis and divide and conquer the caregiving tasks. The tools at Lotsa Helping Hands can be used to keep your network in the loop, enlist their help with daily activities, and provide moral support for you and your loved one. Rely on others to help with tasks such as picking up groceries, tidying up the house and giving rides to doctor’s appointments. Set up a schedule for friends and family to make social visits. Don’t expect to be able to do everything on your own; you’ll only set yourself up for disaster. Enlisting the help of others is one of the best ways to save your sanity while ensuring that your loved one has everything they need at all times.
3. Don’t abandon your hobbies
Now that you’ve gathered an unstoppable team of friends and family to help share in the caregiving journey, carve out some free time for yourself. Think about the hobbies and activities that mean the most to you, and schedule them into your calendar. Whether you enjoy chatting with your friends over brunch, spending an afternoon on the golf course, or curling up with a good book, allow yourself time to do what makes you happy. It’s amazing how much perspective you can gain by simply stepping out of your routine for a few hours. It will lift your mood and clear your head, so you’ll be able to keep your sanity when you return to your caregiving duties.
4. Learn relaxation techniques
Carving out time to enjoy your favorite hobbies is a great way to lift your spirits and avoid caregiver burnout. However, while in the throws of caregiving, there may be times that your frustration will build to a fever pitch and you’ll feel like you’re on the verge of insanity. Perhaps you receive a phone call from a doctor who is delivering bad news while at the same time your two young children are in the background screaming over a gallon of spilled milk. Or perhaps your elderly mother, who is suffering from dementia, has just called you for the fifth time in five minutes to tell you that she can’t find her blue sweater. Whatever the reason, you are sure to experience intensely stressful moments when your blood pressure boils and your anger or anxiety soars. When this happens, one of the crucial ways to save your sanity is by employing some simple tips to help you relax. Control your breathing with long, deep breaths, drop everything and go for a long walk, or call a friend to vent your frustrations aloud. Find a stress-reliever that works for you and employ it in the heat of the moment in order to keep your cool.
5. Say goodbye to guilt
All caregivers tend to have overwhelming feelings of guilt. You may feel guilty that you aren’t spending enough time with the person you are caring for, that you are neglecting your other friends and family, that your career goals have taken a back seat, or that you are slacking on your healthy habits. Whenever you start feeling guilty, remind yourself that you cannot control many aspects of your caregiving situation; you can only control how you react. Remind yourself that you are doing the best you can in your situation. Nobody is perfect and you are probably your own toughest critic. Even though you may feel that you’re unable to successfully juggle everything all at once, your friends and family look at you and see a superhero. So say goodbye to your guilt; it’s one of the best ways to save your sanity.