Caregiver Stress & Self-Care
When you’re taking care of a loved one with lupus, it’s natural to sometimes feel overwhelmed. Set aside a little time to learn about how to take care of yourself along the way and why it’s important for both of you.
I know how important it is for me—and for my sister living with lupus—that I take care of myself. Even small breaks can make a difference.
Make your health a priority
When helping a loved one with a chronic condition, you may be so focused on their care that you start neglecting your own health. But ignoring it may lead, over time, to physical problems and caregiver burnout.
The key is to take care of yourself just as you would if you weren’t helping a loved one. To help you put your health front and center:
Go to the doctor
- If you’re not feeling well, ignoring your symptoms could make you sicker and could even make your loved one sick.
Get regular checkups
- You may go to a lot of doctor appointments already . . . for your loved one. Make sure that you go to your own regular physical exams and routine screenings.
- Try to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, and low in saturated fat and sugar. A healthy diet is good for your loved one, too! For ideas on eating right, talk to your doctor or visit the Nutrition section of our site.
Get enough rest
- It’s hard to function well when you get too little sleep. Not enough sleep can also increase your stress level. Although sleep needs vary from person to person, aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. For more tips on better sleep, talk to your doctor or visit the Sleep section of our site.
- A walk or bike ride, a visit to the gym, or attending a dance class can help you work out the kinks, both physically and mentally.
Schedule time to relax
One strategy to help with caregiver burnout is scheduling some time to relax. It can help you think more clearly and feel more in control. Read a book, practice yoga or tai chi, soak in a warm tub, or listen to soothing music. Always talk to your doctor before starting any type of exercise to determine what may be right for you.
- Or try relaxation exercises, such as deep abdominal breathing.
- Find a comfortable place to sit with your back straight.
- Place one hand on your stomach, the other on your chest.
- Inhale deeply through your nose. Your hand on your stomach will rise as the one on your chest remains still.
- Exhale through your mouth, or nose, while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should lower, while the one on your chest remains still.
- Keep breathing deeply. In through your nose and out through your mouth or nose. Focus on your abdomen rising and lowering.
Ask for help
A weekend away may simply not be possible for you. But, most likely, there are people who will pitch in and help—and they may actually be waiting for you to ask. Reach out to family members, friends, or neighbors with specific requests, such as picking up medication, going to the grocery store, or watching the kids.
Hold on to who you are
Avoid losing yourself in the caregiver role. Try to keep your Saturday tennis lesson, go to your book club meeting, or attend your weekly card game—and don’t feel guilty about it.
New activities may help you take your mind off your responsibilities. Learn a new language, take a class, or join a sports team.
And don’t forget to connect with others like you. Ask a doctor or search online for lupus caregiver support groups.