I get so many emails every day from caregivers who are so stressed out, often saying they’d love to take a break and get away for a little vacation, but are just too afraid to leave their loved one and go. They always ask me if they will ever have a normal life again. I experienced that awful feeling while I was taking care of my parents and didn’t take a vacation for over five years. I’ll emphatically tell you this–I wouldn’t do it again! I always email back and say, "Please listen to me and put yourself first! You don’t want to get sick and shorten your own life simply becasue you were a good daughter to your elderly mother."
Caring for chronically ill loved ones is one of life’s greatest challenges, and caregivers often feel guilty if they try to schedule time away. Also, fond memories of past vacations when their loved one was healthy can create a downward spiral with feelings of loss and sadness.
Realize you are not alone and that more than fifty million people, one in every five Americans, help loved ones who can no longer help themselves–but don’t be like so many who neglects their own well-being and risk getting sick yourself.
Here are steps caregivers can take to reduce stress and enjoy a well-deserved vacation:
1. Take Care of You First: You can’t be an effective caregiver if you are so stressed out that you get sick and have to cancel a vacation. As hard as it is to find the time and motivation, realize that it’s imperative that you nurture yourself.
-Eat healthily: set limits on high fat and processed foods, caffeine, and too many sugar-laden treats that can increase fatigue.
-Exercise often: take a walk, stretch, lift weights, do isometrics
-Get proper sleep: take naps when necessary
-Get out and get a little daily sunlight
-Read your list of Gratitudes several times a day
-Meditate: practice deep breathing and visualize happy times
-Attend a support group regularly: solutions will present themselves
-Do things you enjoy: read, music, hobbies, crafts, movies, etc
-Use a hand sanitizer: viral and bacterial infections can be reduced