Thursday, November 19, 2009

Step #2 Of Leading A Balanced Life

NAMI's signature family education program Family-to-Family is a multi-faceted 12-week course for families who have a loved one diagnosed with a mental illness. Self-care for the caregiver is one of many focuses. There are seven principles for a caregiver to lead a balanced life. Last week we discussed the first principle.

The second principle is: Strive for good physical health.

Of course, everyone should strive for good physical health, but it is especially important for the caregiver. Growing bodies of evidence show that a family member providing care to a loved one with a chronic or disabling condition is also at risk. Physical health problems can arise from complex caregiving situations.

There are many ways to sustain one's physical health. Even following the most basic rules for good physical health can make a huge difference in a caregiver's overall well being.

Nourish your body with healthy food and drinks. Eating well most of the time is key to optimal health and energy when caring for another. There are a wealth of resources on the Internet and books/magazines available to educate yourself on healthy eating. Also check with your health insurance plan to see if it covers or offers nutrition counseling.

Exercise or use your body. Some people think exercise will wear them out, but it actually gives you energy! While you should check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program, simply adding extra activities to your day, such as taking the stairs, helps to use your body as it was intended.

Visit your doctor regularly. Don't skip annual exams. Talk openly to your doctor about any physical and mental health concerns. Advocate for your own health the way you do for your loved one.

Try deep breathing. This is something anyone can do, anytime. Again, there is a wealth of information available on deep breathing exercises, and more and more experts are encouraging this practice for good physical health.

As a caregiver, it is imperative to your loved one that you take care of YOU.

For more information on support for family members, visit the NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania website.