If you’ve ever been on an airplane, you’ve likely heard the safety presentation reminding you to keep your seat belts buckled, keep your chair in an upright position during take off and landing, no standing in the aisle and so on. During the presentation, the flight attendant also mentions that if there’s a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop down. Should that happen, you’re instructed to put on your mask before helping someone else with their mask.

For so many people, it’s natural for them to want to help others before considering their own needs. This is especially true for people who are caring for an aging or ill family member or friend. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that more than 80% of the help provided to older adults in the United States comes from family members, friends or other unpaid caregivers.

At the start of caring for an aging or ill family member, caregivers often feel confident as they have things under control and often have help from other family and friends. As time goes on and the care recipient’s needs change, the demand on caregivers increases. It’s easy to be completely focused on the other person’s needs – attending doctor’s appointments, giving medications on a schedule, changing bandages, preparing meals, running errands and cleaning up. The list goes on and on. Without help and the time to care for themselves, the caregiver’s health can be negatively impacted.

Caregiver burnout is defined as a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the top symptoms of caregiver burnout are depression, anxiety, and fatigue. The latest data on caregivers shows that between 40% and 70% of caregivers report symptoms of depression. Nearly one quarter of caregivers say that caregiving has impacted their own health.

You can’t pour from an empty cup

Caregivers often hear something to the effect of, “Remember to take care of yourself.” Easier said than done, right? Yes. But, self-care is not optional. You can’t effectively take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself.

Experts say that even 15 minutes of focusing on yourself can make a difference. Carrie Barron, M.D., director of creativity resilience at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin said, “A lift from an activity we enjoy reenergizes, motivates and grounds us. It connects us to our core identity and gives us a sense of pleasure and effectiveness. Whether it’s a brisk walk or a few more rows on a knitted scarf, a beloved activity enhances both mental and physical health. Being transported for a brief period gives us the strength to keep going and keep giving.”

Here are some ideas to take a little time for yourself to relax and recharge:

  • Stretch your muscles or do a few yoga poses
  • Read a few chapters of a book
  • Page through a favorite magazine
  • Listen to music
  • Take a short walk
  • Call a friend
  • Write in a journal

To learn more about making self-care a priority, call us at 419-720-4940 to speak with one of our social workers.