If you are a caregiver to someone with a digestive condition, the mental and emotional strain can be a heavy burden. You may have found that all of your free time is now consumed by caring for someone else and you are starting to lose yourself in the daily shuffle of placing your full focus on someone else.
Try these self-care strategies for caregivers to keep yourself from burning out.
1. Prioritize your own health
If you are the primary caregiver for someone, you can probably list off all of their scheduled doctor’s appointments for the next six months. But when was the last time you went to the doctor? Putting your health on hold in favor of someone else’s feels like a noble thing to do, but it can be detrimental in the long run.
As a caregiver, you need to prioritize your health in order to continue supporting the person and to avoid your own health consequences down the road.
2. Make time for yourself
Now that you are making time for your health, your next goal is to carve out some “you” time. When you put all your focus on caring for someone else, you can easily lose your own identity.
Try picking up an old hobbie or form of physical activity (walking, biking, etc.). Make sure to schedule your own time each week, or it won’t happen.
But who will act as the caretaker while you’re busy? This brings us to our next self-care strategy.
3. Let your loved ones help you
If others have been asking how they can help you, now is a perfect time to take them up on their offers.
Let friends bring you dinners a few nights per week or let your siblings take over the caregiver duties once in a while.
It can be a challenge if you are used to doing all the caregiving alone, but the goal is to get comfortable with asking for help and accepting it.
4. Join a caregiver support group
Even if you have help, being the primary caregiver can feel isolating. Finding support from others who know exactly what you are going through can help prevent burn out. There are many in-person and online support communities for caregivers to connect.
Finding a safe space to share your experience and seek advice can help lower stress and keep you going.
5. Hire extra help if needed
No one expects you to be able to do everything. Being a caregiver can be a full-time job and can leave little room for anything else. Instead of letting all of your other responsibilities fall by the wayside, consider outsourcing. Order groceries online, hire a housecleaner, or even hire an individual to take on some of the caregiving responsibilities, if able.
6. Let others care for you
Giving of yourself to another person all the time can be draining. As a caregiver, consider seeking out situations where others are caring for you. This could be getting a massage or a pedicure, going to a spa for the day, or meeting with a therapist or counselor.
Being a caregiver is incredibly selfless. While your main focus is on someone else, it’s important not to lose sight of your own self-care. Taking care of yourself will keep you from burning out and allow you to be there for the person you are caring for.
Katelyn Collins, RD is a registered dietitian specializing in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and digestive health. Katelyn’s personal experience with IBS first sparked her passion for nutrition and health. Since then, she has been a vocal advocate for the digestive health community and has dedicated her own nutrition practice to serving those with digestive conditions.