Remember the airplane safety instructions: in the situation of low cabin pressure, put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others? This scenario can be used as a helpful analogy when thinking about staying well as a caregiver. Caregivers are defined as individuals whose primary responsibility is to secure the health and wellbeing of another human being, particularly those that are young, sick, elderly or disabled. Caregivers are at an increased risk for developing an array of mental health disorders due to the stress and emotional toll of ensuring another human being's health and wellness. If the caregiver does not apply proper self-care measures (a.k.a. "putting their oxygen mask on first"), it will make their ability to effectively be a caregiver increasingly difficult. Furthermore, absence of self-care can increase caregivers' risk of mental health ramifications. The following are examples of ways to accomplish proper self-care:
- Getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
- Eating regular, nutrient-dense meals and snacks.
- Exercising for approximately 30 minutes per day, most days of the week.
- Drinking plenty of water.
- Practicing "mindfulness", or being "present" in daily activities.
- Being kind to yourself and others!
According to the American Psychological Association (2019), caregivers should be routinely screened by healthcare practitioners for depression, anxiety, and (complicated) grief. This can be accomplished during your routine visit with your healthcare practitioner. Being a caregiver can be stressful and even lead to compassion fatigue (feeling "burnt-out" or hopeless). It is important for caregivers to be able to voice their feelings with others about the toll that caring for another human being can create. Speaking up can sometimes even be cathartic enough, however it allows us the opportunity to also be helped by others if needed.
Caregivers often are placed in a situation wherein they must put the ones they care for before themselves. However, it is important to remember to "put your oxygen mask on first" to ensure you can effectively care for others! Try to ensure proper self-care every day and do not hesitate to reach out to a healthcare practitioner for further assistance!
Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.