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Caregiver Training Blog

Caregiving and Your Mental Health: Why Self-Care is Essential

free-caregiver-training-20Self-care keeps your body and mind in peak condition. It can be difficult to practice self-care when you’re caring for someone else. Perhaps you are not only a parent to young ones, but a caregiver to your aging parents. Maybe you are a spouse caring for another spouse, or a family member or friend serving as caregiver for an elderly loved one. It could be that your caregiving role is made all the more trying because your loved one has dementia. Caregiving can be stressful, and mental burnout can quickly happen if you don’t stay on top of self-care. Start by making small, wellness-focused changes to your life, and you’ll soon see the benefits that follow. Many aspects of self-care seem obvious, like getting enough sleep, taking time to relax, eating a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise. It’s unfortunate that these activities are so often overlooked, because they prove extremely beneficial to mental health.

Regular Exercise is Mood-Boosting

Exercise is an important part of self-care and has numerous benefits for your body and mind. People who keep up a consistent exercise routine often do so because it increases their overall well-being. In many studies, exercise has been found to be as effective as antidepressants at treating mild to moderate depression. Exercise also fights anxiety by reducing tension and stress in the body.

Exercise has these mood-boosting effects because it encourages healthy neural growth, causes the release of endorphins in the brain, and reduces inflammation throughout the body. Additionally, exercise is an effective distraction from negative thoughts. Plus, a fit body is always a self-esteem booster. If your loved one is able, include them in some of your workouts by going on a walk together, taking a yoga class, or doing some light stretching.

Quality Sleep Combats Common Mental Disorders

One simple way to increase your mental wellness is to get enough sleep. According to The Conversation, sleep allows our brain to make essential cellular repairs, rid itself of toxins, and consolidate our memories into our long-term storage. Getting too little sleep or sleeping on an irregular schedule disrupts the body’s ability to perform these important tasks.

As a result, sleeping poorly increases the risk of poor mental health. Too little sleep disrupts the levels of neurotransmitters and hormones in the brain, impairing our ability to think and regulate emotions. As an act of self-care, practice good sleep hygiene. This involves maintaining a regular sleep schedule, keeping your bedroom dark and cool, and avoiding stimulating activities before bed. If you’re looking to improve your sleep, you may need to replace an old mattress. If your mattress is 7-10 years old, it may be time for a new one.

Relaxation Techniques are Vital for Daily Stress Reduction

Stress reduction is an important part of caring for your mental health. Relaxation helps reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Additionally, it can boost your mood, reduce tension, and improve your concentration. Helpful relaxation techniques include progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness.

Reduce stress at home by trying some of these relaxation techniques. You may even want to design a special room or space in your house for meditation. Fitness Magazine recommends choosing a meditation space where you can feel calm and free from distractions. Your relaxation space should be free of clutter and contain things that delight you, such as candles, plants, or soft pillows. Include your loved one in your stress relief activities, or at least enjoy some quiet time together while you do a crossword puzzle and they read a good book.

As you go about your day, try to minimize stress with every activity you do. Recognize signs of stress, like a short temper, trouble sleeping, or fatigue. Avoid consuming substances that disrupt your stress hormones, including caffeine and alcohol. Setting goals and making lists will allow you to prioritize what needs to be done and what can be put off. It’s also helpful to talk to friends and family about how you’re feeling, and ask for help if you feel like caregiving is stretching you thin.

Saying “No” Can Improve Your Well-Being

Saying “yes” to everything can be more damaging to your mental health than you think. Overworking quickly leads to stress and burnout. The resulting mental fatigue inhibits our ability to regulate our emotions and control negative thoughts. Work to eliminate tasks from your to-do list and practice moving at a slower pace. Say “no” to tasks that won’t add value to your life or those that come with too much pressure. Caregiving is certainly a priority, but you can definitely say “no” to outside requests that you simply don’t have time for at the moment.

It’s clear that self-care is great for your brain, and as a caregiver it is crucial that you stay on top of it. The next time you’re feeling down, perhaps all you need is a quick walk around the block or 20 minutes in your meditation space. Give yourself some love and take care of your mental health through these simple activities.