This blog is written by guest writer Beverly Nelson who gives self-care and wellness tips and suggestions to caregivers.  

When you’re caring for a war veteran, finding time to tend to your own needs can be a daunting challenge. This doesn’t get easier as time goes by. In fact, as you and your loved one age, you may find yourself approaching caregiver burnout instead of coasting smoothly into your golden years.  Here are some tips for working a wellness plan into your busy days.

Grandpa, May 9, Veteran, Medal, Old Age

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Finding Balance

As a caregiver, it’s likely you are giving a great deal of your time and energy to your loved one and leaving little or none for yourself. However as some experts point out, while being selfless is an admirable trait it’s vital to take part in a self-care program.  Engaging in your own wellness improves your ability to care for your loved one and allows you to keep up your mental and physical health.

Beware of Burnout

Without a good self-care program, the AARP notes that you risk caregiver burnout. Caregiver burnout occurs when you are emotionally and physically exhausted, and the longer you are working as a caregiver to your loved one, the greater your risk.  If you find you’re becoming very emotional, snapping at your veteran or other friends and family members, and maybe you’re exhausted even after a full night of sleep, you may be burning out.  Some experts warn that you might not recognize when you are burning out, so it’s important to be alert to symptoms and take measures to prevent trouble.  Here are some of the signs to watch for:

  • Emotional roller coaster: from angry to sad to despair.
  • Unable to stay well, catching every virus that comes along.
  • Short-tempered, losing your cool with everyone.

Elements of Self-Care

Being a caregiver is a stressful situation. Do not become so involved with tending to your veteran that you ignore your own needs. You need to participate in a regular self-care routine. You need to eat right, exercise, get plenty of sleep, and don’t allow yourself to be so busy that you neglect your own medical appointments and checkups.  You should also ensure you participate in relaxing, recreational activities. Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be; according to Behavioral Wellness & Recovery, keeping a book with you provides a quick and convenient getaway. You can pick it up to read when you’re feeling stressed or when you have a few minutes in a waiting room – you’ll find it’s a great way to boost your outlook.  Another way to recharge is spending time in nature, walking in a local park or going for a hike on trails.

Finding Time for Self-Care

Squeezing a little time out of a schedule that already feels maxed out is tough.  However some professionals offer great time management advice for caregivers:

List tasks.  Create a master list with tasks and important, routine events to help you stay on track.  Include family birthdays, add medical appointments, luncheons, and your to-do list as well.  When time opens up in a day, check things off your to-dos.

Pad your schedule.  Don’t pack every day from beginning to end.  If you know you need a half hour of travel time to reach an appointment, allot time in conjunction with the travel time to prepare for the appointment.  If you discover you’re still tight on time, pad it more.

Plan self-care.  Include a self-care time slot in every day.  Take a break after lunch for a walk outside, spend time at the end of the day enjoying a favorite show via the DVR, or get up a half hour early for a little yoga each morning.

Engage support.  Reach out to other family members or friends for help, or connect with support services to relieve some of your caregiving burden.  Even an hour or two a day can provide welcome respite.

Plan for Wellness

As a caregiver to a military veteran, it’s vitally important to tend to your own well-being.  Don’t allow yourself to become run down and risk burnout.  Manage your time so that you can engage in a self-care program.  You and your loved one will benefit as you grow older together.

Beverly Nelson is writer for Stand Up For Caregivers.

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