Basic Steps for Caregiver Self-Care

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If you're a caregiver, in the midst of your expanded role carrying intense emotions and challenges, it's vital that you learn to take care of yourself.

Many caregivers feel guilty taking time to do something for themselves while their loved one is ill. You may need to first give yourself permission to do so. In light of the approaching holidays, this may become even more important.

What can you do, starting today, that will make a difference for you? You have lived all your life to come to this day, to this moment. There may be different ways to travel this road that will help you maintain your physical and mental health over the long run.

Here are three steps to start with. We will cover three additional steps next week.

1. Self-Care: Feeding Your Body

"My body is literally my caregiving machine. I have to take
care of it."

•     Exercise -- pump up your body by walking at least 10 minutes a day.
•     Sleep -- rest your body for 6-8 hours a night.
•     Eat right -- feed your body, nutritionally and regularly, including breakfast. Eat lots of vegetables, fruit and whole grains.
•     Drink plenty of water.

2. Self-Care: Feeding Your Mind

"I was scared all the time until I learned that the definition of fear is "Future Events Appearing Real." As long as I focus on the present, I keep from getting scared."

In part, our energy and mood are direct products of what we think about. During this time of stress, it's vital to control your thoughts to focus on today. Otherwise, thoughts may spin out of control with worry about what tomorrow might bring, creating a sense of chaos, fear, anxiety and uncertainty. Our thoughts are like tools; they can be used for building up our confidence or tearing it down. Only you, not circumstances or other people, can control what you think about.

Some caregivers find writing in a journal a good way to sort thoughts and feelings. It can serve as a soothing process to empty the mind of stress. Support groups also are useful as they provide a safe place to sort things out and to balance one's perception of reality. Others use reading, music or meditation for thought control.

3. Self-Care: Feeding Your Soul

"Where is God in all of this?"

Living a life with cancer at the forefront carries three dimensions: physical, emotional and spiritual. Searching for spiritual sustenance is one of the exercises that many caregivers experience in their quest to make sense of this time in their lives. As their spiritual life begins to broaden in searching for meaning and deeper understanding, many find that their priorities become rearranged. What was thought to be important before cancer -- such as striving for material goods or worldly success -- may now seem trivial and unimportant. What may emerge is the growing awareness and appreciation of the importance of faith and relationships with loved ones.

Pray and meditate -- feed your soul. Seek spiritual sustenance. Learn from one caregiver who prays, this prayer.

"Even though my loved one has this cancer, help me to learn to live, really live, this day

Basic Steps for Caregiver Self Care Part 2

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