How Caregivers Can Make Time for Self-Care
Photo courtesy of Unsplash by Nathan Anderson
As a caregiver, the notion of self-care might seem impossible or even overwhelming at times. However, the better we care for ourselves, the more we are able to give to those who need us. For instance, grandparents who are raising grandchildren with special needs should practice self-care to maintain their own energy levels and emotional strength. Taking time for yourself each day might seem like a foreign concept at first, but there are some proven strategies that can help.
Here’s how to work self-care into your busy day as a caregiver:
Start small. At first, self-care may not come naturally to you as a caregiver, especially if you are taking care of a child or grandchild. This is because we often become so focused on taking care of others that we forget to take care of ourselves - or we feel guilty when we do. Ease your way into self-care habits with baby steps each day. Even if it’s only one minute per day to start with, every little bit counts.
Have a daily ritual. Self-help author Tony Robbins recommends creating a daily ritual that you complete first thing each morning before starting your day. If the concept of self-care is new to you, you can start with just ten to fifteen minutes each day. Try to gradually work your way up to an hour.
Build a “self-care sandwich.” Author Natalie Lue recommends taking Tony Robbins’ approach a step further and building a few minutes of self-care into your morning, afternoon and evening routine. She calls this approach the “self-care sandwich.” Some ideas for self-care habits: spending time in nature, praying or meditating, reading a chapter from your favorite book, eating balanced meals, or writing down three things that make you grateful.
Ask for help. You don’t always have to do everything on your own. Be willing to ask others for help if you need it. This includes asking relatives or trusted friends to assist with running errands or providing childcare, if needed. Talk to a licensed counselor, therapist, or other support group so you feel strong and resilient. Get a massage, see an acupuncturist, and keep up with your regular doctor appointments.
Spend time with your pets. Our pets can also play a role in our daily self-care routine. As it turns out, spending more time with your family pet can actually be good for you. For instance, dogs have been shown to reduce stress and help with anxiety and depression. This is great news if you have a pet or have been thinking about getting one. If you are caring for a child or grandchild, especially if that child has special needs, then it’s safe to say that you will both experience joy from having a dog. Not to mention, the dog will find a loving “forever home.” Already have a dog? Teach him a new trick, take him for walks, or simply take time to pet and groom him each day. These activities are not only good for your dog, but they also soothe your mind.
Pray. Making time for God or a Higher Power can be extremely beneficial to your mental and emotional health. Take a few moments to pray, meditate, or talk to God each day. Even if you only have one minute to spare, it will make a difference. Go to a quiet space where you feel presence of God in your life. Close your eyes and imagine God healing your body and your life, providing love for yourself, your children, grandchildren
and everyone that you love. Ask for help healing your emotions, finances, relationships, or any other problems you face.
Hopefully, this list gives you some ideas for how to better care for yourself while also caring for the people you love. Self-care does not mean overindulgence or selfishness. Instead, it is about finding balance, coping with life’s problems, and taking care of your own needs so that you can be a better parent, grandparent, and caregiver to those in your life who need you.
June Duncan is the co-creator of Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones.