Caregiving is the basic cornerstone of any nurse’s job. In the routine activity of medical care and procedures, the nurse always has the patient in mind and is looking out for the comfort, well being, and health of anyone being cared for.

Being a full-time caregiver can be emotionally draining as a profession, but when nurses are also caregivers at home, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. And nurses are known for always taking care of others, sometimes to their own detriment. When a family member or friend is ill and you’re providing a lot of their care, it’s hard to find a balance so you don’t get burned out.

It’s also important to remember you aren’t alone if you feel the strain. Caregiving in the U.S. 2015, a recent study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, shows 59 percent of caregivers work at least part-time and 38 percent of caregivers report high stress levels.

If you’re in that spot of caring for people at work and at home, here are a few tips to make sure you don’t get burned out.

1. Take Care of Yourself

This is easier said than done, but it’s the top advice for a reason. If you let your own health slide, you won’t be able to take care of anyone. Make sure you keep up with any health conditions or concerns you have. If you have to postpone an appointment with a physician or a specialist, reschedule it right away. Don’t let your own health get lost in the shuffle.

2. Find a Minute or Two to Breathe

Deep breathing every day, the kind that’s from your belly and that’s slow and steady, will relax your body and mind. Luckily, you don’t need a small quiet place to breathe deeply (although if you can do that, go for it!). You can do deep breathing in the car, in bed before you go to sleep, on the couch while you’re watching TV or reading, or even while you’re waiting for lunch to heat up. Deep breathing helps slow everything down, including health wreckers like anxiety.

3. Time for You

Let’s get real – when you’re working and taking care of someone at home, you are pretty unlikely to take time for yourself. You don’t feel like you have time, and you might even feel like if you do have five extra minutes, you should make a phone call or tackle that sinkful of dishes. But you really need to carve out just a few minutes of peace for yourself every day. Sure, a long bath would be nice, but maybe listening to uplifting music while you’re in the car can be a mood boost. Can’t read a whole book? Just flip through a magazine you love. Find something that makes you feel good and do it – every single day. The dishes will always be there and they can wait.

4. Ask for or Hire Help

The truth is, no one is going to give you time unless you ask for it. You either have to ask friends and family for a respite break or you need to hire help to get it. Even if you think it’s obvious, people around you might not realize how badly you need an afternoon off unless you tell them. If your loved one needs medical care, work with the medical team to find someone who can provide respite care. Ask about what kind of care is available at a low cost or no cost based on your loved one’s medical needs. And don’t be guilted into not getting help. Your loved one may not like having other people provide care, but if you ever truly can’t be there, they need to at least be familiar with the experience (even if they don’t like it).

5. Recognize Your Limits

As disappointing as it is, you are the person in charge of taking care of you. It would be lovely if someone would sweep in for the day to take care of you, the caregiver, who really could use some extra special treatment. But the chances of that happening aren’t very high. So it’s up to you to take care of yourself, to be good to yourself, and to recognize when you need a break. If you can find ways to do that, you will be a much better caregiver than one who is exhausted, unhealthy, and worn out. You deserve your own care.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts.
Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

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