It is important that as you "pour out" yourself into the nurture and service to others in need that you are also doing things that "fill your cup" so that you don't end up burned out and used up. Taking care of a loved one or working professionally as a caregiver can be extremely rewarding. Anyone who has done any amount of caregiving can testify this is true! At the same time, the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual stresses of being a caregiver can take their toll on you as well. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being "I'm doing great!", and 10 being "I'm burned out!", where would you rank yourself?
It's important that you stay healthy by staying fresh. Sometimes caregivers need to step away to recharge their batteries. That charge can come through whatever hobbies or recreational activities help you to relax and rejuvenate! Maybe you are a "craft" person who enjoys making things- then go do that! Possibly you are an outdoorsy type- then go for a hike or spend the afternoon at the park or botanical gardens! Others enjoy music or the arts- so treat yourself to some new music or a night at a performing arts center! Your health is vital if you are going to be the very best you can be when you are actively caregiving! Self-care is critical, and hobbies are one way to provide that care!
You may find it provides more structure and accountability for you to regularly enjoy those hobbies if you find someone else to share them with you. Build relationships outside of your caregiving to stay positive. When you go golfing with a friend, or hit the stores with a shopping buddy it is actually therapeutic! Another person can help you unwind and destress from the pressures of caregiving! Who will you call the next time you need to get on your "Hobby Horse" and enjoy some relaxation time?
I offer this suggestion with a warning. It is OK to bring your hobby into your caregiving if or when you think it could be positive. First, the care of the person you are helping is most important when you are providing assistance to them. You do not want to do anything that would be anything but beneficial or wholesome for them as well. Second, you also must make sure that you are allowing time outside of your caregiving to participate in your relaxing or refreshing hobby. It should never be something that only happens when you are with the care recipient. That all being said, for someone who loves gardening could find out that working in the garden with the care recipient that blesses both of them! Is there a hobby that you love that you could share with your care recipient, one that you both would enjoy?
Remember, life is a journey... stay balanced. Burnout is normal among caregivers, regardless of whether they are being paid or a simply a family member or friend helping a loved one. Know your limits and know what the signs are that you could be nearing burnout. Now get out there and have some fun!
If you would like more information about caregiving issues, or are interested in talking to us about one of our fantastic professional caregivers, contact the amazing people at Visiting Angels of Bartlesville!
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Page Cole is a leader in home care in Oklahoma. He has published the following resources for Seniors-