Caregiving is an important role in many of our lives, but it can be emotionally and physically exhausting. It can also take up every moment of “free time.” When we are caring for a loved one, the idea of taking time away from those duties can feel selfish. 

The fact is, you probably can’t be as good of a caretaker if you never let yourself have a break. Check out these tips for helping to take care of yourself as well as your loved ones.

Find Out What Your Breaking Point Looks Like…

… and stop before you reach that point. While most signs of major stress are common, different people will show different signs of being spread too thin. It’s important to learn warning signs that you might not be taking good care of yourself. Have you given up all the things you enjoy? Do you have chronic headaches? Are you snapping at people? These are all normal signs of stress to experience on occasion, but when it becomes the norm, you need to take a step back.

Find People To Share Caregiving Duties With

Even if you’re the primary caregiver, you cannot possibly be available 24/7. Many caregivers try to make up for this by never fully relaxing or taking a break. Whether it’s hiring a caregiver to come in a few days a week or having an hour every day to go for a long walk alone, make sure that you aren’t spending your “breaks” still focused on caregiving.

Do Something That You Love

This might sound obvious, but doing something that’s just for you can make you feel like you’re betraying your duties as a caregiver. The alternative is burnout, and often, resentment. Whether it’s book club, your time at the gym, or even learning a new hobby or skill, take the time to care for yourself!

Find New Habits Together

Especially if you are caring for an aging parent or relative, we can get stuck in old routines, which can make caregiving monotonous or even depressing. Routines are valuable, especially for people with dementia, but they don’t have to be boring. Try to find an activity that you can do together: maybe it’s putting together jigsaw puzzles; maybe it’s birdwatching at the window.

Remember That Self-Care Isn’t Always “Fun”

The idea of “self-care” often brings images of someone in a luxurious bubble bath or getting a hot stone massage. But don’t forget that sometimes self-care involves doing things that are hard but important. Your self-care routine might involve a weekly visit to therapy—that’s just as important to protect as your “fun” time!

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