If you are a professional caregiver, you’re probably passionate about helping others. Such dedication to the health and well-being of vulnerable adults is in high demand these days with the growing senior population and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Kind, dedicated people like you are among the unsung heroes of this health crisis, and we understand that level of commitment can take its toll on your mental and physical health.
The Ups and Downs of Professional Caregiving
Providing companion care, personal care, and skilled nursing care to older adults can be incredibly rewarding and give you purpose in life. As a professional caregiver, you’ve made it your career to improve other people’s emotional well-being, interpersonal connections, and sense of dignity. It’s hard to beat that!
Unfortunately, along with feeling fulfilled, caregivers are also prone to burnout. This can take the form of exhaustion, frequent illness, guilt, depression, anxiety, and compassion fatigue. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 53 percent of caregivers indicate that physical and mental health problems compromise their ability to provide high-quality care.The COVID-19 pandemic has created further stress and complications for professionals in the caregiving industry. Even as the vaccine rollout is underway, you may still be asking yourself—am I keeping the seniors I care for safe?
Self-Care Tips for Certified Caregivers
While you tend to focus on the people in your care, it’s critical to pursue self-care as well. After all, professional nurses, therapists, CNAs, and caregivers must be healthy if they hope to continue serving the vulnerable senior community during this pandemic. Follow these self-care tips to help maintain good physical, mental, and emotional health.
Make a List of Self-Care Activities
What helps you recharge after a stressful day? Write a list with as many ideas as you can think of. Then, make time to enjoy at least one self-care activity daily. Here are some ideas:
- Exercise, take a walk, or stretch for 10 minutes.
- Call a friend or family member.
- Watch TV or read a book alone in your room.
- Take a long shower or aromatherapy bath.
- Meditate or pray alone for 10 minutes.
- Play with your child or pet.
- Write in your journal.
- Drink a cup of tea.
- Try a new (healthy) recipe.
- Go to bed early.
Goal setting is a technique caregivers can use to guard against burnout. Just be sure to set achievable, measurable goals that don’t raise your risk of guilt and negativity. One option is to tie a goal to some of your favorite self-care activities. For instance, if you want to be healthier, you could aim to exercise every day or cook a new, healthy recipe once a week.
When you accomplish a goal or make it through a challenging life experience, do something simple and inexpensive that brings you joy. Here are some ideas:
- Get a massage, pedicure, or facial.
- Buy a fancy cup of coffee.
- Plan a virtual night out with friends.
- Order takeout instead of making dinner.
- Take a day off of work.
- Buy a new movie or book.
- Get a fresh hairstyle.
You’re accustomed to having compassion for others, but don’t forget to be kind to yourself, too. Rather than aiming to always be perfect, realize that making mistakes is just an opportunity to grow and improve. Your work is challenging enough without negative self-talk, so strive to only speak and think kind words about yourself. Phrases like, “I’ve got this!” and “My best is enough!” can give you the mental pick-me-up you need to make it through a tough day.
Nothing sets you up for success like a good night’s sleep. Aim to get seven to nine hours of shut-eye every night. If you have trouble sleeping, start by shutting off the TV and your phone about an hour before bed. Blue light shining from these screens increases your alertness and makes it harder to fall asleep. Also, try deep breathing techniques or meditation right before climbing into bed. Setting up your room to be cool, quiet, and dark all night also helps promote deep, restful sleep.
Assess Your Diet
Stress eating is a common coping mechanism, but junk food only gives your body empty calories. You’ll have more energy to be a good caregiver if you eat healthy food, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and low-fat dairy. Reduce your intake of sugary drinks and processed foods, and remember to drink plenty of water. Most people need at least eight cups of water every day to avoid getting dehydrated.
Communicate Your Needs
No one will know you need help if you don’t express how you feel. Work on your communication skills, and remember to reach out to friends and family members long before reaching your breaking point. Even if you just need someone to vent to after a long day, give yourself that opportunity.
Keep Up With Preventative Medical Care
Visit the doctor for your annual physical, routine lab work, and cancer screenings. Have your teeth cleaned and eyes checked at least once a year, and call your healthcare provider if you don’t feel well.
Join a Caregiver Support Group
Whether in person or online, finding other care professionals to talk to can be extremely therapeutic, especially if they are also in the in-home care field. Find groups on social media or connect with a local therapist to help you talk through and process your feelings about constantly putting other people’s needs above your own. You may also garner useful, personalized advice about achieving a healthier balance between caregiving and self-care.
At BrightStar Care locally owned and operated agencies, nurses, CNAs, and caregivers are the reason we can help clients stay home safely. Everyone on each agency's team is here because, to them, caring is more than just a job—it’s a way of life. If helping people is your passion, you’ll find working at a BrightStar Care agency to be incredibly fulfilling. To learn more about caregiver screening practices or to ask about joining a local BrightStar Care in-home care team, please call 866-618-7827 or search and apply for a position near you.