Winter can be a tough time of year for family caregivers, particularly those in colder climates like Michigan and Indiana. Cold, snowy days make it difficult to leave home. When you factor in the added worries associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, a caregiver might feel especially isolated. Those caring for a family member with dementia or another disease that impacts verbal skills may be exceptionally lonely.
These factors all put family caregivers at high risk for developing the winter blues. As we head into a season known for challenging weather, these tips may help ward off a case of the caregiver blues.
Blues Buster Tips for Family Caregivers
- Commit to a healthy diet.
Juggling the demands of caregiving along with your own responsibilities can take a toll on your overall wellness. A caregiver’s once-healthy diet may be sacrificed in the interest of saving time. Fast food and convenience foods might be quicker, but they can leave you tired and sluggish. These foods also contribute to weight gain, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
One of the few positives associated with the COVID-19 pandemic is the increase in grocery stores offering delivery services. There is also a wide variety of home meal services. If you aren’t able to fit grocery shopping and meal preparation into your busy schedule, take advantage of these services.
- Get daily exercise.
Caregivers sometimes think because they are busy all day, they get enough exercise. While the bustle of hectic days can feel like a workout, it’s probably not providing enough physical activity. Physical fitness activities increase energy, improve sleep, and beat stress. Each is vital for overall health.
Some caregivers find two or three shorter workouts easier to manage. Instead of trying to find 30 continuous minutes to exercise, work shorter fitness sessions into the day. Research shows it reaps the same health benefits as exercising for 30 straight minutes. Resistance bands, chair yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, and 10-Minute Beginner Zumba are all activities you can do at home.
- Nurture the spirit.
Caregivers experience a range of emotions as they care for a senior loved one. From sadness to fear and guilt, it’s easy to second guess yourself. That can impact your mental health.
Activities such as meditation, journaling, or joining an online caregiver support group can nurture your spirit. In the midst of a dreary winter day or COVID-19 concerns, dedicating a few minutes a day to mental health is vital for caregivers.
- Enjoy a few laughs.
The old saying that laughter is the best medicine is true. It’s also something caregivers might not do very often. As you navigate your days this winter, look for opportunities to laugh. It will boost your mood, and likely help you beat the blues. Stream an old comedy in the evening, like The Office or Clueless. Invest in a joke book to read aloud with your loved one every morning.
Try looking at the difficult situations caregivers find themselves in from a different perspective. Humor can make tough tasks less emotionally taxing for you and the senior.
- See your doctor.
When you are focused on being the best caregiver possible, you may neglect your own health. Staying on track with physicals and routine health screenings is an important part of protecting your health. For example, a yearly physical might help identify a thyroid problem that may be causing you to feel blue.
If it’s been a while since your last physical, call your doctor to schedule an appointment. During your visit, make sure to inform them you are a caregiver under stress.
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