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​​Self-Care for Caregivers


Most caregivers feel that all their time, energy and care should be given to caring for their care recipient because of their condition. However, if you do not take care of yourself, the care recipient may suffer too. You should see it as your duty to your loved one to take good care of yourself.

Exercise
Even moderate exercise helps. A sedentary (lack of physical activity) lifestyle is a risk factor for all major diseases.

Walking is an easy way to exercise. If you cannot walk for 30 to 40 minutes at a stretch, try several five- to 10-minute periods. Exercise improves your mood and appearance. It also gives you opportunities to meet new friends. Find a way to make exercise part of your day.

Tip: Singapore Sports Council runs many ClubFITT Gymnasiums located islandwide. Adults pay $2.50 while seniors (above 55) and students (below 19) pay $1.50. Alternatively, you could visit People Association's OnePA website to search for an interest group (e.g. brisk walking club) at your nearest Community Club.

Nutrition
Nutrition is important. Learn to read food labels and avoid foods with high fat content. Monitor portion sizes. For example, one serving of meat is about a palm-size amount.

Sleep
Many caregivers do not get enough sleep.

If your sleep is disrupted because the care recipient needs help during the night, draw up a schedule so that you can take turns with other family members to stay awake.

Meditation
Your journey as a caregiver can be less stressful if you practise meditation. Think of meditation as sitting still and doing nothing.

Here are seven easy steps:
  1.     Sit up straight on a chair or a big, firm pillow
  2.     As you inhale, tense up your entire body – arms, legs, buttocks, fists. Scrunch up the muscles on your face too
  3.     Hold for two to three seconds
  4.     Exhale and relax (repeat twice)
  5.     Take a deep breath. Let your belly expand
  6.     Exhale and relax (repeat twice)
  7.     Breathe normally and be aware of your thoughts for five minutes

Tips:

  • Most people think meditation is about clearing your mind of thoughts. Instead of emptying your mind, 'observe' your thoughts. There are no 'right' or 'wrong' thoughts.
  • Do not focus on any of your thoughts, but do not force yourself to stop thinking. An easy way to do that is to label each thought as it bubbles up, e.g. sad thought, happy thought, angry thought, depressed thought, to-do list thought. Then, let the thought go and label the next one that appears.
  • Use a kitchen timer to help you keep track of the five minutes.
  • It is not important how much time you spend meditating. You can start by spending five minutes on it. Meditation can be effective in reducing stress if you practise it every day.
  • Meditate before your care recipient wakes up or after he or she goes to bed or is taking a nap. You may spend only 5 or 10 minutes on it, but you will notice its benefits after a few weeks.