7 self-care habits to prevent social isolation in caregivers during COVID-19
Communications & Fundraising Specialist, Ottawa
Despite lockdown restrictions easing in the province, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our daily lives. Canadians are still working to flatten the curve by practicing good hygiene, physical distancing, and staying at home.
While some people are finding ways to cope with being more socially isolated than usual, not everyone has figured out how to navigate during this challenging time.
Carefor Day Program Team Leader Carolyn Puderer recommends following these 7 self-care habits to prevent social isolation in caregivers.
1. Keep to a schedule
I think we can all attest that a planned day goes faster than a day spent trying to brainstorm things to do. The reason why is because keeping to a schedule makes us feel more productive and gives us a better sense of purpose.
However, amid this pandemic, many find it hard to keep to a schedule. Social isolation can be challenging because you feel like you’ve been given an opportunity to be deliberate in your activities, but oftentimes we find that we’re rushing from one task to another. Essentially, we’re doing things because we feel like we have to, not because we want to. This is when organizing your day and finding proactive things to do come in play.
Carolyn recommends “trying something new” on your mental list of things you’ve been wanting to do, but haven’t had quite the time for.
“Try to spend at least five minutes a day at it,” and then see how it goes.
2. Stay informed
The news can be a main source of anxiety for some caregivers, but it’s important to stay up-to-date on things changing in the community and updates with support programs. You can either limit your use of how you receive news or have a friend or family member update you on important changes. Just make sure you’re not fixating on the news. Devote some time to getting that information and then continue with your day.
Carolyn says staying connected can also help provide ideas during this difficult time: “It’s a great way to figure out what others are doing to cope.”
Check out our website and our social media channels to stay informed on the status of home care and support programs in your region.
3. Don’t feel guilty
Our Day Program staff understand the difficulties of being a caregiver, which is why our respite programs exist. During this period of social isolation, caregivers that were once receiving respite every now and then are now working round-the-clock again.
“Self-compassion is important,” Carolyn stresses. “Give yourself a break, and don’t shy away from your feelings because they will bottle up and contribute to more stress.”
“We’re in unprecedented times. We all need a break every now and then. So find something they enjoy and step away, don’t feel guilty, and go find that time for yourself because you’re only able to provide the best care if you’re healthy.”
Keep in mind, doing nothing can also be productive because it gives you time to stop and recharge, otherwise you might experience caregiver burnout.
4. Stay active
Carolyn can’t stress enough the importance of getting fresh air and your heart pumping: “Exercise is good for your lungs, muscles, and also for emotional well-being,” she says. “It’s important to keep moving to get those endorphins pumping.”
She recommends searching for resources online that work to your and your loved one’s ability. “You can try home workouts or just simply walk outside and get some fresh air with your loved one.”
5. Find meaning
Finding ways to stay engaged and keep busy is already hard for yourself, so it’s even more difficult trying to keep others occupied.
That being said, finding meaning throughout the day is a great way to lift the mood. “Use this time to engage with your loved one, find a way to connect with them,” Carolyn says. This could be by way of a project, looking through photo albums, singalongs, or something that has been quite special between you and your loved one.
“Find the moments where you can connect with your loved one that’s meaningful. Follow their lead and find what interests them.”
This might also be the time to get creative or simply slow down your day. Oftentimes we’re rushing to fill our free time with chores or screen time, but it’s okay to be bored together. This deliberate time of reflection may be one way to find meaning.
We may be more physically isolated than usual, but we’re not completely socially isolated. Take time to reach out to friends or family, which may give you some time to step away.
“Hopefully this is once in a lifetime, but we have to find ways to adapt and take care of ourselves,” Carolyn explains. “As a caregiver, you need to reach out to your network of people during this time because if you’re not healthy, you’re not able to protect your loved one."
Keep in mind, we’re all in this together. We may be physically isolated from the world, but so is everyone else. We’re all doing our part to protect the most vulnerable population and looking to share experiences and find the time to connect to others.
“If you lack a strong network, feel free to reach out to Carefor because we have lots of support systems, tools and activities.” Carefor is working with technology that has allowed us like never before to connect with people who need our support.
7. Live in the moment
Living in the moment is always easier said than done, but it’s more important than ever to take each day as it comes. These times won’t last forever, so stay positive as much as possible, but don’t shy away from your emotions.
“Being a round-the-clock caregiver can wear on a person and it’s okay to admit that. You’re doing amazing things trying to care for that person, and now you have to give more, but you are doing the best you can during this difficult time. Don’t be so hard on yourself,” Carolyn says.