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Monday, May 6, 2013

Self Care For Caregivers - Part 3: Tips For Self Care

In my two prior blog articles, I introduced the topic of self care for caregivers as well as common emotional reactions that caregivers have (see links below for these articles).  In this blog article, I'll focus on tips for self care.

Be Open to Self Compassion
Having compassion for yourself as a caretaker is very important.  It's important to be aware that you're going through a difficult time.  Many caregivers either override their emotional reactions or they try to push themselves harder, often leading to chronic stress or burnout.

Self Care For Caregivers: Be Open to Self Compassion

Chronic stress can lead to many other medical and psychological problems, including heart problems, migraines, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, depression and anxiety.

If a close friend or loved one was going through a similar situation, you would have compassion for him or her, so why not for yourself?

If you allow for self compassion, in my opinion, you're more likely to take care of yourself, so here are some tips that can be useful.

Ask for Help
This is a time when it's important to have a good support network.  Whether you ask for help from family members or friends, don't be ashamed to admit that you can't do everything.  Admit that you're human and, as humans, we all have certain limitations.  Others might want to help, but they might not know what you need, so you need to communicate clearly and specifically what you need.

Aside from loved ones, you might also ask for help from your local church or organizations that are set up to provide respite care.  For instance, the Alzheimer's Association in certain areas provides respite care that can make all the difference in the world.

At the same time, be aware that some people might not be able to help due to the circumstances in their own lives.

Stay Healthy
Taking care of a loved one can make you feel exhausted, stressed and emotionally and physically depleted.  It's important to eat healthy meals, get enough sleep, engage in physical exercise that's right for you, and to have regular medical checkups for yourself for preventive healthcare.

Participate in Support Groups
If you're fortunate enough to have support groups in your area, you could benefit from the mutual support available in such a group.  Many organizations, like the Alzheimer's Association and Cancer Care, have support groups.  If you don't have support groups in your area that meet in person, you might be able to find a support group that meets online.  Just knowing and hearing about other caregivers who are having similar experiences can help you to cope better with your situation.

Write in a Journal
Journaling about your feelings when you're going through a difficult time, can help you to release pent up emotions.

Self Care For Caregivers: Write in a Journal

Journaling can also help you to clarify your thoughts and emotions.  You might even discover, as you journal, that there are some bright spots in your experience that you might overlook if you don't take the time to reflect and write about your experiences.  In addition, you might also capture in writing certain poignant moments with your loved one that you can treasure in the future.

Get Help From a Licensed Mental Health Professional
When you attend therapy with a skilled therapist, your session is completely focused on you.  This is so important in terms of your self care when you're a caregiver and your time and energy are mostly focused on someone else.  By participating in therapy, not only can you learn how to cope better as a caregiver, but you can get the emotional support that you need.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I provide therapy to individual adults and couples in an empathetic and supportive environment.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or send me an email: josephineolivia@aol.com


Self Care For Caregivers - Part 1

Self Care For Caregivers - Part 2 - Caregivers' Common Emotional Reactions

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