October 4, 2017

The Importance of Self Care for Caregivers

Caregiver is defined “a person who provides direct care (as for children, elderly people or the chronically ill).  Taking care of another person is a tremendous responsibility that can result in various forms of stress.  When caregivers find a rare moment for themselves, the moment quickly fills with managing the tasks that often take a backseat to our residents or a loved one. Paying bills, catching up on paperwork, grocery shopping, or simply tidying up tend to be our “go to” in the downtime.

A major component of wellness that is often missing in the lives of the caregiver is self-care. While many feel that taking time for self-care is selfish or just not in the cards given the pace of our lives today, it can truly mean the difference between feeling whole or feeling run down and in perpetual catch up mode. Mindfulness and self-care are often used buzz words today. This is a good thing as it’s an indicator that we are at least thinking and talking often about the subject. Where things trail off is in the doing, and the execution of a plan for improved self-care. Making room for self-care need not be a major life change, but rather a concerted effort to celebrate your gifts and give yourself room to decompress and stay energized and ready to be the helpful person you already are.

Here are a few examples of how to take a “me” inventory:

1) Don’t be overly critical or set out to make too many changes. You are caring for residents and loved ones which is both emotionally and physically draining.

2) Look for obvious things that you feel you have been missing out on and try to find ways to fold them back into the week, even if it means asking others to cover for you.

3) Change your drive. Our alone time in the car is an often unrecognized and untapped resource for reconnecting with yourself. Consider turning off the radio and letting the silence take over, leaving you space to look out the window and notice flowers or architecture. Also consider checking out an audiobook from your local library, which can shorten the drive and allow you a little escape from the daily routines. It can also do double duty as those caregivers who love to read often can’t find the time.

4) At the end of each day take 10 minutes before retiring to reflect and work on focused and measured breathing. Nothing hokey here…simply sitting down and breathing in deeply through your nose and filling your lungs for a count of 5, then exhaling fully through your mouth as if trying to blow out a candle for a 5 count. Nothing is better for preparing you for a restful night’s sleep which will help you to be mindful and connected the next day.

“Love yourself first, and everything else falls in line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” ~Lucille Ball