Taking Care Of Yourself & Managing Time After Being A Caregiver
As a caregiver, you invested countless hours meeting your loved one’s needs. Now that your season of caregiving has ended, you may feel uncertain about what to do next.
12 Tips For Adjusting To Life After Being A Caregiver
Consider these tips that help you care for yourself and manage your time.
1. Give yourself permission and time to grieve
After any loss, you will need time to grieve.
The commonly held stages of grief include:
- Denial, disbelief, confusion, shock, and/or isolation
- Despair and/or depression
Instead of hiding or feeling ashamed or guilty, give yourself permission to experience the grieving process. Realize that everyone grieves differently, and you may progress through the grief stages methodically or swing back and forth.
Likewise, you may experience intense emotions or a quiet sadness. No matter what you feel, understand that your grief is normal and that you have the right and need to experience grief in your way.
2. Use healthy and appropriate coping mechanisms
Grief can last months or even years, and you may wonder if you’ll ever return to normal. To cope, you may turn to drugs, alcohol, food, or other unhealthy coping mechanisms.
While you will never forget your loved one, we promise that the pain will eventually subside. Stuffing your emotions or drowning your feelings will only hurt you now and into the future. In fact, unhealthy and inappropriate coping can cause physical pain, emotional illnesses or long-term negative reactions.
Choose to exercise, talk, journal, or embrace other positive and healthy coping mechanisms as you grieve and protect yourself.
3. Ask for and accept help
In your caregiver role, you were the one who gave all the help. Caregiving depletes physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual resources, and now you’re the one in need of assistance.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable and ask for help as needed. Consider writing a list of tasks others can do for you or call friends who will listen and offer support.
By asking for and accepting help, you receive support and allow others to show you love.
4. Take care of your health
Visiting a doctor may be the last thing on your mind, especially if you spent a lot of time in a hospital with your loved one. You deserve to care for yourself, though, as you respect and energize your body during the grieving process.
Apply your caregiving duties to yourself and insist on a healthy daily regimen. Eat a balanced diet, get plenty of rest, exercise regularly, and visit your doctor for scheduled checkups.
Prioritizing your health equips and strengthens you for your grief journey.
5. Join a support group
Talking about your caregiving and grief experiences may scare you. It’s also hard to be vulnerable and continue to rehash the events surrounding your loved one’s passing.
Other caregivers and professional therapists or grief counselors understand what you’ve gone through. You can share your experiences and discuss your feelings and concerns in a support group. Here, you’ll gain practical advice and emotional support that sustains you as you adjust to life after caregiving.
Talking and sharing can also help others find healing, too.
6. Delay major decisions
The act of caregiving and managing grief takes a toll on your body, mind, and emotions. You need time to find a new normal.
Give yourself at least a year or as much time as you need before you make any major decisions, such as moving, growing your family, changing jobs, or entering a romantic relationship.
This cushion of time prevents you from making an emotional decision you later regret and helps you rediscover yourself.
7. Embrace new routines
Much of your daily routine used to revolve around caring for your loved one. Now, you may miss your caregiving responsibilities and struggle with the significant changes in your daily routine.
Rest assured that in time you can and will develop a new routine that becomes familiar, comfortable, and fulfilling. Start by deciding what will fulfill you each day. Remember to eat, exercise, and spend time doing things that fulfill you, too.
These steps lead you to embrace a new and positive routine.
8. Reevaluate your relationships
Loss affects everyone differently. Some people in your life may step up and offer additional support while others step away and distance themselves.
This relationship ebb and flow after a loss is normal, and you will eventually rediscover a strong and healthy support system.
For now, try to accept inevitable relationship changes. You can reduce stress when you bless and release people who withdraw and show gratitude for people who choose to stay.
9. Carefully choose new responsibilities
Without your caregiving duties, you may have fewer or even no responsibilities. You may find yourself bored, frustrated, or angry and be tempted to over-function and jump right into another caregiving relationship.
Consider giving yourself an extended time off from helping others. Work instead on the hard job of grieving.
You will also benefit from rediscovering the activities, interests, and duties that are important and fulfilling for you. Then carefully choose the new responsibilities you want to embrace as you fill your time.
10. Find fulfilling activities and interests
Caregiving takes time and energy. Instead of enjoying activities and investing in interests that used to be important, you may have put yourself on the back burner.
Now’s a great time to return to the activities and interests that mattered before you took on your caregiving role. You may even develop new hobbies.
Whichever experiences you choose to embrace, know that it’s healthy to fill some of your time with activities and interests that fulfill you and make you happy and content.
11. Discover new priorities and goals
Your role as a caregiver revolved around meeting your loved one’s needs and putting their priorities and goals above your own. Through that process, you may have given up your dreams.
Take time now to think about your future and what you want your life to look like. Then decide your priorities and set goals that propel you to make your dreams come true.
12. Help others
As an experienced caregiver, you have developed dozens of skills. You also understand the hard work caregiving takes, and you know about the grieving process firsthand.
Consider using your experience to help others. You could offer encouraging and beneficial support to other caregivers and make a difference in their lives.
By giving back, you gain an outlet for your energy and may even ease some of your grief symptoms.
Rebuilding Life When Caregiving Ends
Your role as a caregiver for your loved one may be over, but you can now embrace a new season of life.
Consider implementing these tips. With them, you find fulfillment and meaning as you care for yourself and manage your time.
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