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Care Givers Author: Rachelle Reeder, MPH, The Monday Campaigns Last Updated: Feb 22, 2014 - 10:00:10 AM



Why Caregivers Need to Take a Break for Themselves

By Rachelle Reeder, MPH, The Monday Campaigns
Feb 24, 2014 - 12:01:00 AM



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(HealthNewsDigest.com) - You do everything you can to be the best possible caregiver. You schedule doctor appointments. You manage finances. You play nurse. You cook. You clean. You do it all, except one thing - take care of yourself. In order to keep yourself healthy enough to provide the best care for your loved one, you need to take a break.

Why do I need a break?

As a caregiver, stress is your greatest enemy. Chronic stress can lead to burnout, and is detrimental to both your body and mind. Research links chronic stress to several health problems:

-        Frequent and longer lasting colds

-        Digestive problems

-        Heart disease

-        Depression and anxiety

-        Increased risk for stroke

Taking time for yourself may be the most challenging thing you do all week, but it's the best way to make sure you have the physical and mental energy to provide your loved one with the best possible care.  This is why The Monday Campaigns created Caregiver Monday, a weekly opportunity for you to take a break in order to care for your own health and well-being. To start your week on the right foot, take time each Monday to do something for yourself and make sure you actually do it. The point is to use Monday as a day that you put your caregiving duties aside, even for just a short time.

Why Monday?

Monday is already a part of our weekly cycle and can serve as a recurring reminder each week to take a break. Monday also has special significance as the beginning of the week. In a survey done by Johns Hopkins University, most people reported that they see Monday as a day for a "fresh start" and a day to do something good for their own heath, such as schedule a doctor's appointment, exercise, start a diet, or quit smoking.

What should I do?

Make Caregiver Monday part of your weekly routine. This gives you 52 chances a year to look forward to some me-time. Caregiver Monday can be just an hour or two of time for yourself or it can mean getting help or respite care for the whole day. However long you give yourself "me-time," try not to spend it worrying about your caregiver duties or catching up on chores. When Monday comes around, make an honest effort to put aside your caregiving duties and relax.

Ten Ways to Spend Caregiver Monday

1.     Eat a real meal. Perhaps you haven't had time to sit down to a real, balanced meal in a while. On Monday, cook, go out to eat, or order in and enjoy a healthy meal.

2.     Meditate. Close your eyes and sit quietly while your mind takes a break. Breathe deeply and concentrate on the moment, letting stressful thoughts slip away for a while.

3.     Exercise. Physical activity is a great stress reliever, and it doesn't have to mean joining a gym. Even just 10-minute bouts of exercise at a time can make a difference. Take a long walk. Stretch and strengthen at home with yoga or Pilates. Check out some more exercise ideas here.

4.     Go shopping. Treat yourself to a small purchase. A new, colorful addition to your wardrobe might be a great mood-booster.

5.     Catch up on your pop culture. When's the last time you sat and watched some TV? Or flipped through a magazine? Or went out to a movie? Make Monday the day.

6.     Take care of your own health. Schedule your doctor, dentist, or counseling appointment for Monday. Take some time to check up on your own health and well-being.

7.     Socialize. Have you felt isolated lately? Meet up with a friend for a meal or coffee. Make "Meet-Up Mondays" a tradition with the loved ones you've been missing.

8.     Read. Pick up that novel you've been meaning to read and step into another world for a little while.

9.     Get artsy. Paint, scrapbook, or garden. Do something creative to take your mind off of your caregiving duties for a while.

10.  Get a full night's sleep. Hit the hay early and get a full 8 hours of sleep to rejuvenate you for the next day.

As a caregiver, you put so much love and energy into caring for others. Remember each Monday to put that same love and energy into taking care of yourself.

You can find more Caregiver Monday tips each Monday on Facebook and Twitter. For more resources, check out the Caregiver Monday Resource Kit.

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