Balancing your needs with the needs of someone in your care can be tricky. And exhausting. And stressful. So you don’t neglect your own wellbeing while taking care of another, pay attention to the signals for help your body makes as it deals with the punishing effects of day in and day out stress.

If your doctor gives you medication or recommends lifestyle changes, comply with the treatment and/or advice. By being compliant, you’ll be letting someone else help take care of you while you take care of the one who depends upon you.
When you find yourself dealing with issues like chronic back pain, weight gain, tension headaches, or skin problems, start managing stress with some TLC for yourself. Whoa, you say. This means more for me to do along with everything I’m already doing! Seriously?
Yes, seriously. But the TLC tips recommended below come in the form of simple changes that don’t add to your already overloaded plate. They’re necessary because living in a constant state of stress can push your body into continual low-level inflammation, which sneaks in when you’re stressed continually. Unfortunately, if left uncontrolled, low-level inflammation can race past all of the issues mentioned above on its way to even more serious issues such as high blood pressure, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and heart disease.

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TLC Tip 1 – The easiest way to put inflammation on the run is to alter your food intake. Switch the highly processed food on your grocery list with colorful anti-inflammatory veggies. Make it a point to cut way down on processed foods such as deli meats, cheese, bread/cake, frozen meals and add a fresh or frozen veggie or two every day. Reach for foods such as asparagus, artichokes, spinach, collard greens, kale, green peas, mushrooms, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, almonds, yoghurt, apples, bananas, cherries blueberries, and walnuts. When you make these simple dietary additions you’re not only fighting inflammation, you’re helping to combat weight gain and high blood pressure.

TLC Tip 2 – Low-level inflammation has a nasty habit of causing skin problems such as eczema or psoriasis to flare up, but it can also make normal skin feel itchy, dry and flaky, too. Rub away dry skin caused by chronic stress by keeping your skin moisturized. Even on the busiest days, you can find a literal minute a few times a day to pamper yourself. Think of each time you slather on cream or lotion as a one-minute spa session. While smoothing on the lotion, breathe in slowly through your nose – all the way down into your belly, like a sleeping child – hold your breath for a moment then let the air out through your mouth gently and hold it a brief moment again. You’ll feel first-hand the relief relaxed breathing brings, and your skin will look and feel better, too.

TLC Tip 3 – If you are prone to tension headaches or back pain, do some chair yoga or stretching rather than relying only on pain medication. Again, you won’t be giving up anything but some nasty health-robbing inflammation, and you can do this while watching TV.
It’s so easy to overlook your own needs when tending to the needs of someone who relies heavily upon you. Keep in mind that inflammation-busting additions to your diet aren’t major overhauls. The easy steps to TLC outlined here won’t cause you to miss a step in your caregiving activities, and they will do a lot of good for your body and overall wellbeing. You deserve every bit of TLC that you can make come your way.

Kathy Faenzi PhotoKathy C. Faenzi MA is a Clinical Gerontologist and Senior Care Consultant based in San Mateo, CA.

JC Spicer, M.Ed. is a Freelance Social Science Writer and Developmental Editor based in the U.K.