When people hear the words “healthy lifestyle,” the first things people think about are diet and exercise. Since a healthy lifestyle is really a matter of maintaining balance, your need to care for your body and soul.
When you are a caregiver, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is essential so you are able to meet the needs of your loved one, which begs the question, “What is a healthy lifestyle?” Most research studies define a healthy lifestyle in terms of diet and exercise because physical health is readily observable, but this definition neglects to take into account your social, emotional, and psychological well-being. While your physical health definitely impacts your quality of life, taking care of your mind and spirit is the key to achieving the balance that is critical to leading long, healthy, and satisfying life.
Five Ways to Nourish Your Mind and Spirit
- Develop and maintain a sense of gratitude. In our fast-paced world, it is easy to forget to take time to give thanks for the good things we experience, yet maintaining a sense gratitude is essential for a rich quality of life.
Studies cited by Harvard University found that people who took the time to keep a gratitude journal realized these psychological health benefits:
- They experienced A greater sense of optimism than those who did not keep a gratitude journal
- They felt better about their lives than they did before they starting keeping the journal
- They exercised more and went to the doctor less than the control group
- They reported they were happier than they were before the study.
All you need to do to keep a gratitude journal is a pen and a small notebook, yet the rewards are extraordinary for such a small investment.
- Turn lemons into lemonade. In the United States, the average age of a family caregiver is 49 years old. In addition to having to manage the needs of their elderly parent or infirmed loved one, people in this stage of life also face significant changes in their own lives. Often they are dealing with their children leaving home, changes in their work life, or moving to a smaller home.
According to the Mayo Clinic, people who are able to find something positive about the changes they face in their lives are more likely to
- Enjoy a longer life
- Avoid periods of depression, anxiety, or other forms of emotional distress
Additionally, people who find the good in their life challenges are
- Less likely to get colds or the flu because they have strong immune systems
- Decreasing their risk of cardiovascular disease
Some of the ways to deal with life’s challenges constructively include:
- Break large tasks into smaller ones and celebrate your success when you accomplish each step toward your goal.
- Maintain a sense of humor
- Delegate some of your caregiving tasks to a personal care assistant (PCA) to avoid becoming overwhelmed.
- Share your wisdom with others. By the time you reach middle age, you have gained a wealth of knowledge from your life experiences, which provide you with special insight and wisdom. By sharing this wisdom with others, you not only help people deal with their own challenges, but you also gain a renewed sense of confidence and mastery. Additionally, when you opt to share your wisdom through volunteer work, you make new social connections that will enrich your life.
Some examples of the ways you can share your wisdom with others include:
- Volunteering as a youth mentor
- Share your business and work experience with young entrepreneurs
- Participate in Cornell University’s Legacy Project, which does not require you to leave your home. This is also a great way for people who are housebound to share their wisdom.
If you want to do volunteer work but are concerned about leaving your loved one unsupervised, arrange with a Minnesota home health agency to have a PCA to come to spend time with family member.
- Exercise your mind. Studies show that adults who challenge themselves to learn new things and engage in problem solving are less likely to experience memory loss and the slowdown in thought process associated with aging.
In addition to reading and doing puzzles, another option is to take classes at a local community college. Many schools offer classes for adults over age 55 either for free charge or for a very low tuition rate. Some of the options include yoga, creative arts, and practical classes, such as investing strategies. If you want the challenge and intellectual stimulation of college classes, seniors 62 and over can audit undergraduate level course without cost or pay just $10 per course if you want to earn academic credit. If you need to ensure your loved one has someone to stay with them when you are studying, contact a Minnesota home health care agency to arrange for PCA services.
- Take time to pamper yourself. When you care for your elderly parents or a disabled love one, it is very easy to forget to do something special for yourself. Many caregivers find it useful to actual schedule some self-pampering time. Some suggestions for ways you can indulge yourself include:
- Schedule a massage at a day spa
- Spend some time at a park
- Get together with friends
- Take a weekend trip
By allowing yourself to enjoy some simple pleasures, you recharge your mind, body, and spirit so you avoid burnout and have the energy for caregiving. Many home health agencies offer respite services, which makes taking a break much easier than trying to find a person to help you on your own.
When you take a holistic approach to your own personal well-being, you’ll find caring for you loved one is much easier and more fulfilling than if you neglected your own needs. When you take advantage of PCA services, it is possible to take the time to attend to all aspects of living a healthy lifestyle.