Caring for a family member can be a rewarding experience, but in the day-to-day it can also be challenging, frustrating, and can lead to serious burnout. As we recognize National Caregivers Day on April 6, here are 10 tips for caregivers from Faith Robinson, our Caregiver Navigator for the Caregiver Club program:
1. Do one thing at a time
When doing everyday activities, focus on the activity at hand without letting your mind wander onto the usual worries or other tasks. You can do this by focusing on all your senses in the moment (sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste). This is a common technique used to help calm anxiety and stress. You can learn more by reading this short article about the 5 senses technique.
2. Take a mindful walk
Notice the clouds and sky, sounds of cars or birds, feeling of the temperature and air. With so much around us to pay attention to on a walk, this gives our minds a break from our usual thoughts. Even a few minutes of fresh air can boost your mood, increase your energy, and provide a much-needed break. To learn more, read this article about the incredible benefits of being outdoors.
3. Share your feelings
Any and all emotions are normal and 100% permissible as a caregiver, but keeping them bottled up internally can increase stress. However, expressing your emotions and feelings – whether that be by joining a support group, calling a family member or friend, or putting thoughts and emotions into words by journaling – decreases the stress they cause and helps them become less overwhelming, because this helps you to process them and clear them from your mind. Sometimes we just need to let it out! To learn more, read this article about the benefits of sharing your emotions.
4. Schedule breaks
As a family caregiver, you are incredibly busy and have a packed schedule, most likely. This can make it a challenge to take breaks. However, small breaks can make a huge difference. They help you recharge, rejuvenate, find a fresh perspective, and be able to manage the many other tasks on your to-do list. Try scheduling short breaks into your day, just as you would anything else – and acknowledge any emotions of guilt that you feel – they’re normal. To learn more, here’s an article with 10 ways you can take a quick break during your day.
5. Give yourself credit
Credit yourself for doing the best job you can do. Rather than focusing on what you haven’t accomplished, acknowledge everything you have done or are doing for your loved one – it is priceless. Practicing self-compassion and gentleness with your mistakes can improve your self-confidence, sense of accomplishment, and reducing negative emotions. And try to incorporate positive affirmations to help you recognize all the wonderful things that you are achieving, and strengthen and build your self-worth. To learn more, read this article on positive affirmations.
6. Find sources of social support
Staying connected with others plays a significant role in our overall health as we age. Staying social can ward off depression, improves physical health, and reduces stress. If you’re interested in making new connections, there may be volunteer opportunities of interest, classes, activities, virtual support groups, or social clubs right around the corner (or virtually!). Circle of Care offers a drop-in Virtual Caregiver Support Group that’s available every other week through ZOOM. Visit our calendar to view the next upcoming class and register today!
7. Engage in a hobby
Keeping up with an interest you have outside of your caregiving role can clear your head and give you a break when you need it, add some fun into your day, and add something new to look forward to. All these benefits contribute to reduced stress levels. Some ideas for hobbies that could be easy to incorporate into your day include listening to music, watching a movie, or gardening. If you enjoy reading books or magazines, the Toronto Public Library has a free Digital Access Card for all residents 13+, which will give you access to digital books, audiobooks, magazines, newspapers, and more. The Vaughan Public Library System, as well as other library systems, also offer free library cards for their residents.
8. Keep a schedule
Planning out your day for both you and your loved one helps your loved one feel a sense of security and predictability, and provides you with structure and a sense of control over what’s to come in your day. It will also help to ensure you’re scheduling in the breaks you might otherwise not have. Making lists, keeping a planner or calendar are all great options – you know best what works for you! To learn more, read this article about why a daily routine is important for seniors.
9. Schedule time to exercise
You may feel so overwhelmed that you are probably craving rest. Yet, exercise can oftentimes be a far better choice. Exercising may prevent you from getting sick, give you more energy, and help you to sleep better. Circle of Care offers online exercise classes for older adults. These classes are offered multiple times during the week and offer a flexible way for you to incorporate exercise into your schedule. Visit our Exercise Classes page to learn more about this great program!
10. Ask for help
Caregiver burnout is real and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Asking for help may be very difficult, especially if you don’t know who and how to ask. Think of people who are in your life: your siblings, your children, your friends, your neighbours. There is the possibility that they simply don’t know what you are going through or just don’t know how to help! To learn more, read this article about how to ask for help as a family caregiver. Circle of Care can be a great resource as well. Consider joining our Caregiver Club program, if you haven’t already.