- Thomas Woods
Self-care for Caregivers
Caregivers are under so much pressure every day, and the past few years of Covid-19 have definitely not helped that. Therefore, it is essential to think about mental health and well-being when working in the healthcare industry to avoid stress and burnout.
This article will discuss self-care ideas and techniques to help caregivers deal with such pressure and stress.
Recognise the signs
Firstly, it is important to know the signs of stress and burnout. These signs could be in ourselves, our friends, family and colleagues. Here is a list of some common signs to be aware of from Mental Health UK:
The feeling of being tired and drained the majority of the time
A feeling of helplessness, being trapped or defeated
Feeling detached/alone in the world
Having a cynical/negative outlook
Procrastinating and taking longer to get things done
Take time for yourself.
It is important to take time for ourselves, whether taking a long relaxing bath, unplugging from the internet or reading a book. We could treat ourselves to something decadent such as sweets, ice cream or watching our favourite TV show or movie. All of these little things help calm the nerves and relax the body. This allows us to unwind and prepare ourselves to sleep after a long, tiring shift and should enable us to have a better night's sleep. This leads perfectly to the following self-care technique.
Get plenty of sleep
Sleep is so crucial for our body and mind because it helps improve our brain's performance, mood and health. According to Healthline, sleep can also improve concentration and productivity, allowing more focus on day-to-day tasks. It also has many other health benefits, such as strengthening your heart and helping build up a healthy immune system.
Healthline also states that lack of sleep is incredibly dangerous as our ability to focus on tasks and reaction times are slowed down, which can greatly impact the lives of those we are caring for. Lack of sleep also affects our emotions and social interactions. This means that whilst giving care there is more of a chance for an uncontrolled emotional outburst which affects our ability to show empathy which is essential in healthcare.
“Lack of sleep is associated with many negative health effects, including increased risk of heart disease, depression, weight gain, inflammation, and sickness.”
Eat and drink well
We also hear about how healthy eating and drinking plenty of water are good for you, but do you know some of the impacts a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water can have on a caregiver? Healthy practices, such as diet and drinking water, help prevent diseases such as cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and many other potential diseases. Even beyond that, good health reduces the impact of stress and negativity on the body. It also helps fuel the brain and body for work.
There is always the risk that after a long, hard day, we want to binge eat bad food or have a drink of something nice. We all do it. But the important thing to remember with all food and drink is that it is about balance. Find that balance and do meal preparations and planning. It helps to look after our body and our mind when we spend time preparing and planning what we will consume.
“Healthy body, healthy mind”
Exercise and meditation
Both exercise and meditation may be something we don’t get a lot of opportunities to do, but again, this is something that we need to take the time to do to help ourselves. Exercise and meditation both boost oxygen and blood flow to the brain, which allows new brain cells to form. They also help strengthen our brains and allow us to focus and concentrate more whilst reducing anxiety and depression.
Just breathing can help calm any nerves or anxiety you may be experiencing at work. Taking time out to just breathe is important. A technique taught to help calm nerves is called ‘Box Breathing’.
To do Box Breathing:
Breathe in counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs.
Hold your breath for 4 seconds, trying to avoid inhaling or exhaling for those 4 seconds.
Slowly exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds.
Repeat steps 1 to 3 until you feel re-centred.
Find a creative outlet.
Often finding a way to express ourselves and how we feel can help control those feelings and prevent them from taking control. As stated, it is an outlet. A way to release these feelings instead of bottling them up.
Some people write their thoughts and feelings down in a journal or diary. Some draw or paint to release how they feel. There are many different creative forms to help release stress and bring ease to your mind. Having a creative outlet gives us purpose and helps make room in our minds to overcome obstacles. Think about all the songs over time that have been written about overcoming a problem. There are thousands upon thousands of them!
Escapism is a similar form of release but is more about doing something to allow our brains to escape the troubles we are currently facing. This can include reading, playing video games, listening to music or podcasts, watching a TV show or movie or even going for a long walk. Escapism gives your brain relief from the stress of everyday life.
Speak to friends and family
Even just speaking to someone, or ranting about how we feel, is a great way to get our emotions out of our heads and release some of that stress and anxiety. Talk to people you trust and who are there as a support system and they can often give us advice or space just to let out some bottled-up emotions.
Often when we are stressed and feeling burnt out, we doubt ourselves and our abilities and speaking to friends and family, or a support group helps reignite that spark and helps us remember we are tough and we can do our job well!
Speaking about our emotions does not make us weak. If anything, it shows the complete opposite. It is courageous to speak out and get help and support when we are struggling. Often our friends and family can help put a smile on our faces and make us laugh. It is said that laughter is the best medicine.
Keep going and keep smiling. Caregivers do a fantastic job that not many people have the patience and empathy to do. If you love changing people’s lives then keep that spark a light within you and remember, you are not alone.
H1 Healthcare is here for you if you need to talk.
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