Question: I'm 32 and my mother is terminally ill. She lives in a nursing home now, due to her steadily declining health. The decision to place her there was beyond difficult but necessary. Since her placement (over three years ago) I have experienced more than my fair share of ups and downs. In 2012 I was diagnosed with depression due to a lack of balance in my life that came as a result of caring for my mother. Since then I've sought treatment and have been doing well with setting and maintaining a balanced life. Despite the change for the better, I still find myself feeling overwhelmed and experience great fatigue periodically. Can you offer any advice on how I can add to my self care?
Dr. Amy: You have been carrying a huge load, emotionally and physically, for years now. The fact that you are focused on your health and wellbeing is great. Good for you! I don’t know what specifically you are doing, so I thought it might help to review the basics. You want to focus on your physical as well as your emotional wellness. On the physical side, it is important to:
- Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep can boost your memory, help keep you mentally sharp, help keep your immune system strong, and increase your ability to handle stress.
- Eat a diet rich in fruit, veggies, lean protein and healthy fats. Not only does it help ward off disease, but it also helps you maintain your energy level throughout the day.
- Exercise: Exercise and yoga are two great way to help cope with stress and elevate your mood. I have been swimming this winter. It’s been fabulous—it elevates my mood and has really helped me get through this tough winter. Swimming makes me feel like a kid again—light and joyful. I encourage you to find something that makes you feel the same way. If you have not been active for a while, talk to your doctor about developing a safe exercise program.
- Drink water: Getting enough pure water will help your body eliminate toxins. It can also help you stay clear-headed.
- Focus on your breath. Here is an article by Dr. Andrew Weil with three exercises.
In addition to taking care of your physical health, it’s important to nurture yourself emotionally.
- Have you tried yoga or meditation? In addition to helping you quiet your mind, you can do both from the comfort of your own home, when it’s convenient for you.
- Have you joined a support group? Sharing your story with people who are travelling the same path—and hearing their stories in turn—can be enormously comforting.
- Do you have a hobby? Doing something you love is a great way to shake off the doldrums and experience joy.
- Do you have a close friend you can confide in? The saddest experience can be made more bearable when you are supported by a good friend. If you need to expand your circle of friends, you will meet like-minded people both at a support group and through a hobby.
- Are you part of a faith group? If you are, now is the time to reach out for support. You might start by attending a social event, or having coffee with the spiritual leader of your faith community.
If your periods of fatigue continue, I encourage you to get checked out by your doctor. I send you peace on your journey.