Why Self-Care is So Important for Caregivers

by Sarah Archual, DNP, APRN

Remember the airplane safety instructions that state, “In the event of low cabin pressure, put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others?” This scenario can be used as a helpful analogy when thinking about staying well as a caregiver. Caregivers are defined as individuals whose primary responsibility is to secure the health and well-being of another human being, particularly those who are young, sick, elderly or disabled. Caregivers are at an increased risk for developing an array of mental health disorders, due to the stress and emotional toll of their responsibilities. If caregivers do not apply proper self-care measures (putting on their own oxygen mask first, metaphorically speaking), it can limit their ability to be effective and helpful and increase their own risk for mental health issues.

Ways to accomplish proper self-care

  • Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
  • Eat regular, nutrient-dense meals and snacks.
  • Exercise for approximately 30 minutes per day, most days of the week.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Practice "mindfulness,’ or being "present" in daily activities.
  • Be kind to yourself as well as others.

How to have self “check-ins”

According to the American Psychological Association, caregivers should be routinely screened by healthcare practitioners for depression, anxiety and grief. Being a caregiver can even lead to compassion fatigue – a feeling of being burned out or hopeless. A screening can be accomplished during a routine visit with your healthcare practitioner. It is important for caregivers to be able to voice their feelings with others about the toll that caring for another human being can create. Sometimes even just speaking up to a family member or friend can be cathartic as well. It will open the door for others to help if needed. If you’re a caregiver, it’s important to remember to "put on your own oxygen mask first" to ensure your own health and effectiveness. Try to ensure proper self-care every day, and do not hesitate to reach out to a healthcare practitioner for help!

Explore more healthy living advice from our team of experts.