How to Take Care of Yourself in a Crisis

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If good self-care is tough for caregivers to manage, self-care during a loved one's medical crisis can feel downright impossible. The vending machine meals. The nights spend upright in an uncomfortable chair. The worry.

Obviously the focus is on the person in need. But that doesn't mean you have to ignore your own needs completely. Especially when a medical emergency or hospitalization is prolonged, you'll feel better -- and be more effective -- if you can muster a few basic self-care "survival" strategies.

What helps:

  • Clean up in the bathroom. If you spend the night in the hospital, bring a towel and shampoo to the family bathroom in the mornings so you can clean up. Take a shower, if one is available. Even a quick refresher will recharge you for the new day.

  • Skip the sodas. Start your day with strong coffee, if you like, but switch to tea and water for the remainder of the day. Soda doesn't do anything for you nutritionally and leaves you feeling bloated and sluggish.

  • Create alternate routines. Try taking the stairs or parking farther away. Walk around the hospital floor if you're nervous about going far away. Take standing and stretching breaks while you're sitting bedside.

  • Don't try to do too much at once. Make one or two healthful change-ups a day: Stop to pick up some good food (even a ready-to-go meal from a grocery store) rather than fast food. Swap a vending machine snack for some fruit from home.