Four Steps to Self-Care During the Pandemic
COVID-19 takes a particularly taxing toll on caregivers, so it’s more important than ever for you to practice self-care. Not only are you worried about your loved one’s health, but you’re probably also stressed about maintaining your own well-being so you can be healthy for the people who need you most. Unfortunately, this kind of stress leads to a weakened immune system, which leads to increased susceptibility, and so on. It’s a classic chicken-and-egg scenario.
Carewell is here for you, and we’d like to share four ways to help yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally so you can more effectively help others.
1. Build out the band.
No one person should have to handle the burden of caregiving on their own, but during this unprecedented time of isolation, many people are doing just that. Instead of playing as a solo act, allow family members and friends to pitch in from a safe distance in some creative ways:
- Ask adults to visit your loved one virtually to provide entertainment and emotional support; remind them to avoid talking about the pandemic and focus on positive, uplifting topics
- Encourage the youngest family members to virtually read a story, sing a song, or hold up a piece of art they’ve created for their grandparent or other loved one
- Reach out to siblings and friends for help with meal delivery, grocery orders, and bill paying—caregiving takes a village, and many people have a lot of extra time on their hands right now
- Form a research support crew. If you’re new to caregiving, you’ll quickly realize there are a million things to learn, especially when it comes to incontinence products. Instead of spending hours online researching the merits of adult pull-ups versus adults diapers with tabs, ask friends to devote 30 minutes to the task so you can focus on your loved one while they focus on Googling reviews.
2. Review your plan.
For your own peace of mind, it’s critical to make an alternate plan in the event that you contract the virus. Have one, or possibly multiple, backup caregivers ready to help if you fall ill. If you already have a family caregiving plan in place, review it to make sure everyone is on the same page. Don’t assume other family members will agree on what should happen if your loved one contracts the virus.
If you don’t have a plan in place, now is the time to make one. There are plenty of templates and resources out there, but we like this simple one available on the CDC’s website. Don’t wait for a crisis to take action—hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
3. Distract yourself.
Family caregivers have a much higher than normal risk of anger, depression, and substance abuse, so it’s critical to find interests that are healthy and enjoyable while you’re confined to your house. The following activities can help you get out of your head for a little while, even if the only travel you do is through a computer screen:
- Avoid constantly watching news stories and scanning social media Instead, focus on moving your body and relaxing your mind
- Take deep breaths every hour and do stress-busting stretches
- Eat well-balanced meals and get enough sleep
- Try out one of the YMCA’s exercise videos, which are geared towards audiences ranging from kids to older adults, or follow these tips to ease into a better fitness routine
- Tour museums, scientific research centers, and even iconic movie locations through Google Arts & Culture
4. Acknowledge and validate your emotions.
It’s okay to feel extra burdened and resentful right now. Continuous caregiving is incredibly stressful and requires emotional outlets and support that you’re probably not getting.
Try to seek comfort in new ways. Reach out to friends in similar situations to set up daily or even weekly Zoom calls, or join an online support group. A vast majority of these groups operate primarily through Facebook, such as Memory People and the Dementia Caregivers Support Group. They’re private, so you can post questions and concerns, or simply vent without fear of others seeing. Connecting with other people in the same situation can be a great daily reminder that even in isolation, you’re not alone.