Caring for someone with multiple system atrophy (MSA) is a labor of love, but it often is demanding and stressful. It might seem impossible to set aside time for yourself. You might even feel guilty about doing so. However, if you want to be the best caregiver possible for your loved one with MSA, you need to take care of yourself. Little breaks from caregiving will rejuvenate your spirit and reenergize your ability to be a caregiver.
Here are a few helpful tips:
Take care of your body: It’s easy for caregivers to:
- Become sleep deprived,
- Develop bad eating habits
- Not exercise.
Don’t let these energy-draining things happen to you. Exercising a few days a week will help with your body being fit, but it will also help reduce stress and aid you in sleeping better. Combine your fitness with healthy food and you will certainly feel more energized. It’s important that you take care of your body so you feel healthy and at your best as you face the daily challenges of caring for someone with MSA.
Take care of your mind: Just like your body, your mind needs rest and exercise. When you have some downtime, do word or sudoku puzzles to keep your brain active and sharp. Another helpful idea is to identify particular stressful situation, note the cause and come up with a solution. Eliminating some stresses can really improve your overall mental well being, but you need to accept that there are things you can and cannot control or change, and take comfort in knowing you are doing the best you can.
Ask for help when you need it: When you are afraid to ask for help, you risk feeling overwhelmed and depressed. Being the caregiver does not mean you should avoid seeking additional support. Talk to your doctor, friends, or family if you need assistance. Also the MSA Support Group is available to listen and offer advice, just call our number (866) 737-5999 and there are local Support Groups around the country.
Avoid feeling guilty: It is not selfish to put your needs first sometimes. You need to take care of yourself, too, and do what makes you happy.
Set self-care goals: By setting goals for yourself, you may help reduce your stress level and improve your overall caregiving.
Goals can be:
- Taking a half hour break from caregiving once a day to do a word puzzle
- Participating in regular exercise, such as walking, yoga, etc.
- Planning outings with friends
- Enlisting help for shopping or other chores that add stress
What tips do you have for caregivers to help them reduce stress and to improve their caregiving?