Taking Care of Your Health
It is well known that chronic stress is not good for our health. What can fit the definition of chronic stress better than being a family or parent-caregiver? Protect yourself from stress-induced diseases, and bad habits that can become major health issues. Unhealthy coping skills can come to the forefront when you are stressed – overeating, drinking too much alcohol or too often, smoking, watching too much television, etc.
Your job as a caregiver will be easier, and your child will be better cared for if you are healthy and energetic! Developing positive coping skills will make your life easier, less stressed, and healthier.
Take care of yourself and make an appointment with your physician to assess your health. An assessment may include checking your cholesterol, blood sugar levels, BMI (body mass index), waist measurement, and a general review of any symptoms you may be experiencing. You may also need to schedule your regular appointments for pap-smears, mammograms, and any other recommended specialist appointments. Dental care is also important, so make sure you keep your regular six-month dental exam, and any other appointments recommended by your dentist.
Okay – so here’s an admittedly tongue-in-cheek look at what you don’t want to be doing to your body. We also have a general list of things you can do to improve and maintain your health (always check with your doctor in regards to your health and well-being – we are not trying to replace a visit to your physician!). As a parent-caregiver, you can help yourself feel good, strong and healthy. It really is another part of the caregiver’s job – remember, the better you feel and the healthier you are, the better caregiver you will be for your child.
If You Want Bad Health Make Sure To…
- Smoke – preferably a lot, go for smoker’s cough!
- Abuse a substance such as alcohol, or use it in an unsafe way such as drinking and driving
- Don’t drink water; if you drink at least 8 cups (8 oz x 8 servings) of water a day you might start to feel better. Replace it with a lot of high-sugar sodas and teas, coffee, etc.
- Eat fast food, a lot of red meat, and other high-calorie, high-saturated fat foods
- Eat a lot of sugary foods, especially ones with high-fructose corn syrup
- Pour on the salt! Don’t even taste food before you dump a bunch of salt on it – and get lots of salty, high fat snacks to cram down while you watch TV
- Eat too much – large portion sizes that leave you feeling stuffed and bloated are the way to go if you want to feel as energetic as a slug (this helps with maintaining a sedentary lifestyle, and obtaining obesity – see below.)
- Never eat vegetables or whole grains, and only eat “the colors of the rainbow” if they are in candy form
- Don’t get regular check-ups with your doctor to test blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, as well as other health assessments
- Don’t get regular health screenings such as pap smears and mammograms (women), prostate and testicular cancer check-ups (men),
- Don’t get any exercise and stay as sedentary as possible – if your couch doesn’t have your personal imprint in it from consistent use, then you are slacking! Being completely sedentary takes dedication – don’t let a beautiful day tempt you to lose sight of your goal!
- Try to gain as much weight as possible - obesity will help you in your goal to be unhealthy!
- Don’t follow basic personal safety rules as a pedestrian or a driver, or around water (i.e. swimming pools, the ocean) Rule of thumb: if there is a dark scary alley and you are alone – don’t hesitate to use it as a short cut.
- Focus on the Negative – dwell on it – ooze in it! Cycle it over and over again! Repeat it to everyone you know until they mysteriously won’t answer your phone calls and suddenly have other places to be when you see them.
- Don’t Sleep – stay up as late as possible – be so stressed out you can’t sleep!
- Don’t Take Breaks – forget rejuvenation, go for depletion and burnout! (This might seem in opposition to the rule to stay sedentary – you just have to find your balance on this one between constant caregiving and not exercising.)
- Ignore your body – don’t listen to it! It may be telling you things you don’t want to hear, sort of like that strange rattle and grinding noise in your car
- Don’t wash your hands or practice basic hygiene like bathing and brushing your teeth – this will ensure your maximum exposure to germs and decay.
Things You Can Do For Your Health & Well-Being
- Practice Healthy Eating/Drinking Habits & Good Nutrition – healthy eating habits and drinking plenty of water are essential (8 x 8oz per day), as is being careful with alcohol consumption. As a parent-caregiver, you are often “on-call” 24/7 – and as a responsible person, you don’t want to let your judgment become impaired when you are caring for your child.
- Exercise and Stretch – get your body moving and flexible! Walking, yoga, strength training, using the stairs instead of the elevator, etc. You don't need to spend hours of your time and financial resources on an expensive gym membership - consider what you can do at home or in the hospital to take care of your need for exercise and flexibility.
- Get Enough Sleep and “Down-Time” to rejuvenate your body and mind – take breaks! Most people need eight hours of sleep. (A 24-hour care schedule may not allow for this for a period of time. Consider getting someone to stay with you overnight that can be trained to take a shift for you – a friend who is a nurse or your child’s grandparent. Sleep when your child sleeps, whenever possible.)
- Practice Stress Management – yoga, journaling, breathing exercises, physical exercise, massage, etc.
- Practice Positive Thinking – eliminate cycles of negativity, work the solution!
- See Your Doctor – get your health assessed and take care of any problems you find, get the health screenings your doctor recommends as well as annual check-ups
- Be Aware of Your Personal Safety – follow safety rules!
- Listen To Your Body – if you are hurting, have symptoms, weigh too much or too little, lack energy, etc. – listen to your body! Is it trying to tell you to change what you are doing so you can be healthy?
You may wish to include chiropractic care, massage therapy, acupuncture, etc. to help you manage your stress and maintain your health.
So much depends on you – don’t let yourself down in the process of holding up your family.
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Stress & You
Stress is known to be a factor in many disorders. Use these resources to help you with your stress management.
Exercise & Stretching -
The Complete Caregiver's exercise and stretching page by Dr. Andy Rosser
The Complete Caregiver's nutrition information page
The Complete Caregiver's guide to journaling for stress management
Coming Soon! The Complete Caregiver Journal Workbook helps you keep track of both your child's health and your own, manage your self-care, and has problem-solving pages, journaling topics and much more...