To say that coronavirus is a challenge is an understatement for everyone, but if you are a caregiver–it is particularly difficult due to the stressors already one faces. The fear and anxiety about contracting a serious illness is very scary and self-isolation can contribute to depression and with increased caregiving responsibilities during this difficult time, caregivers may feel increased fatigue, resentment and anger. Thus, taking care of mental health and practicing self- care is all the more critical for caregivers during this time of uncertainty. The CARES team at Jewish Family Services shares some helpful ways for caregivers to take care of their mental health and wellbeing.

1. Maintain a regular daily routine and healthy lifestyle- In times of uncertainty maintaining a regular routine that you can count on can provide important structure and help with a sense of control. We cannot control what is happening in the world but we can provide ourselves with a healthy lifestyle by eating well, exercising, sleeping and getting fresh air.

2. Improve sleep-As a caregiver, it is often difficult to get enough sleep but with coronavirus, it may be even more difficult. It is however, extremely important to maintain good sleep hygiene to boost your immune system, wellbeing and ability to be an effective caregiver.

3. Limit “what if” thinking- There are so many unknowns right now that concentrating on “what if’s” wastes limited energy since none of us can predict the future. Staying in the moment helps keep us grounded and reduces anxiety, fear and anger.

4. Give yourself a break- The COVID-19 pandemic changed all of our lives and is extremely stressful so expecting that we can do everything we did before is unreasonable. Some things may not get done, we may forget to do others and plans may change. This does not mean you are doing a bad job as a caregiver but that you are human and have a lot on your plate. Give yourself a break. You are doing a lot to navigate a very challenging time. Try to notice if you are being too hard on yourself or holding yourself to an unreasonable standard. If so, practice positive self- talk by saying kind things to yourself.

5. Plan for your older adult’s care if you get sick- Although this may be scary to think about, being prepared for situations can relieve stress. Things such as choosing someone who can take over care, creating a care plan for your loved one, identifying non-caregiving helpers and preparing a quarantine zone with supplies can put one’s mind at ease if something unforeseen happens.

6. Take mini breaks throughout the day- Taking small breaks by yourself to recharge and reenergize is important for your well-being.

7. Remember that you are not alone- It has never been so important to reach out to others and stay connected to each other. We are all going through this pandemic together. Make sure you are calling friends and family or using video chat to “see” others. Consider registering for the JFS’ Virtual Caregiver Conversations or Caregiver Consultations.

8. Use humor to relieve stress- Finding something funny on the internet, watching a comedy or just having a good laugh with someone can relieve stress and tension.

JFS CARES (Caregiver Assessment Respite Education and Support) is here to help. Our team is working and our programs continue to support you, the CAREGIVER. Please contact robertah@jfsannarbor.org or call 734-769-0209 ext. 374 for more information about how we can help and how to register for the virtual support group.