While caregivers can be found across the age spectrum, the majority of family caregivers are middle-aged (35-64 years old) and are employed in non-caregiving positions/careers.
Look around your friend and family ‘circle-of-influence’, chances are high that you’ve got folks in your network already providing some level of family caregiving. Someday soon you may be asked to pitch in and assist a member of your own immediate or extended family.
If you’ve ever flown in an airplane, then you’ve undoubtedly heard the pre-flight instructions that an airline crew member recites through the overhead speakers. They alert passengers that “in the event of an emergency, an oxygen mask will drop down from overhead. “Be sure to put YOUR oxygen mask on before helping those around you.”
Good advice, right? You can’t help those around you if you cannot breathe!
Five Suggestions for the New Year!
Caregivers, here are five suggestions for you to ponder and possibly implement in the New Year. Ideas to help you take care of YOU! You cannot provide care to others at maximum capacity if you yourself are unhealthy or unable to breathe.
1. GET MORE SLEEP!
Most experts agree that adults need between seven and eight hours of sleep a night for optimal health. Restful sleep boosts your immune system. Thus giving it what it needs to help ward off germs like colds and flu. Additionally, those who get proper sleep are less apt to have excessive weight gain. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces ghrelin (aka the ‘hunger’ hormone) which increases your appetite. And because your tired, it’s easier to grab for quick-fix junk food items instead of healthier options.
- Caregivers need to be well-rested
2. STAY HYDRATED!
Statistics show that over 75% of all Americans are dehydrated. Yikes!
The Mayo Clinic defines dehydration this way: Dehydration occurs when you use or lose more fluid than you take in and your body doesn’t have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal function.
And because our brains are 73% water, insufficient hydration can have an adverse effect on how our brains function.
- Drink more water
- Consider carrying a reusable water bottle to sip from and refill throughout the day
3. HEALTHY MEAL PREP!
As caregivers, it can be quite challenging to eat well-balanced meals. Far too often, you grab for food while you are on the move and end up with pre-packaged or fast food options loaded with sodium and other additives with minimal health benefits.
Make a resolution in 2022 to take the time to do some healthy meal preparation to ensure you are able to grab real food options when time is tight.
- Cut up fresh veggies and store in clear containers in your fridge. Consider packing some in reusable bags that seal tight and can be kept in your purse, bag or car. Your body will thank you when you reach for the brightly colored carrots, radishes, cucumbers, and celery options
- Take one hour to pre-cook ground beef, turkey, or chicken and store in glass containers in the refrigerator. Easy to grab during the week for lunch & dinner options. This way, the meat is already cooked and just needs a quick re-heat with some of the veggies you already prepped too; for a healthy one-pot option
4. GET MOVING!
- Work out your body and your brain through regular exercise combined with mentally and socially stimulating activities. There is a direct correlation between the benefits of physical activity and brain health.
- Go for a brisk walk outdoors, followed by completing a word-search puzzle
- Take a fitness class with a friend followed by going out for a healthy smoothie together
The old adage, ‘move-it-or-lose-it’ is especially important for family caregivers balancing care and career. Your health & wellness directly impacts your ability to be at peak performance for those in your care.
5. INCREASE SELF-CARE!
The hours of care you provide can often negatively impact your ability to nurture your own social and mental wellbeing. However, it’s crucial for caregivers to be thinking clearly and functioning at their best as they care for another.
Therefore, you must give yourself permission to weave in ways to feed your soul with things that bring you joy, calm you down and rejuvenate your spirit.
- Journaling. Writing down your thoughts and feelings, release them for being trapped in your head where negative self-speak can sometimes occur
- Holistic health practices like yoga, reiki, massage and sound bathing are alternative ways for those in need of stress release to find comfort and calm
New Year. New You.
If you are struggling to balance the duties of care and career; this is your chance to re-boot and introduce some alternative methods into your life and daily routine that may yield high returns for your overall health and wellbeing.
Take the advice from the airline personnel, and make sure to take care of YOU so that you can better serve those in your care. THEY are depending on you!