Our mental state impacts our lives in every way. How we feel physically, socially, spiritually and otherwise depends largely on how healthy our minds are. Our mental wellbeing has a huge impact on our ability to care for others, but actually discussing one’s mental health is a tricky topic of conversation these days. Family caregivers are particularly vulnerable to depression, anxiety, loneliness and stress in general. All of these negative emotions can have adverse effects on the whole of your wellbeing, robbing you of rest and wrecking your immune system.
While there are many different contexts in which we find references to mental health within society today, for our purposes your mental health is what gives you the ability to think clearly, plan effectively, and manage schedules as a family caregiver. These are all critical skills to the responsibility of caregiving and require an agile mind to properly balance each area of caregiving. Thinking clearly helps you to assess the many different components involved in caring for an aging family member. Effective planning takes that assessment and organizes each piece so every day runs smoothly and everything gets accomplished. Schedule management reinforces and expands thinking and planning, but it also allows for necessary adjustments and builds flexibility into your success formula.
How well is your mind working these days? Do you feel clear and focused, or are you foggy and forgetful? The mind’s ability to function well is impacted by many factors. Sleep, nutrition, quiet moments in your day, and physical exercise all contribute to a healthy mind. Daily Bible study and prayer also give you grounding and centering that helps align your thoughts and plans. If you are missing the mark on any one of these, your mind’s ability to operate effectively can be negatively impacted; if you are short on two or more, you might find yourself experiencing lapses in memory, depression, anxiety, and mood swings. These can all damage your capacity to care and put those you care for at risk. If you don’t take care of yourself, how can you succeed at caring for others?
Small changes in your lifestyle can make huge improvements in your mental health. Just choose one of the areas above and decide to do one thing every day to make improvements. For sleep, try going to bed at the same time every day. For nutrition, try increasing fruits and veggies in your diet, or simply drink more water in your day. If exercise is your target, start with a short walk every day. Take time out every day to breathe. Choose an online Bible study to follow or get up 15 minutes earlier and begin your day with prayer. All of these actions are small, but just begin with one. After a week or two, add another. Before you know it, you will be feeling like a new caregiver!
Betsy and I hope you will join us this week here at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about how you keep your mental ability healthy.