Three Tips to Maintain Self-Care as a Caregiver
How much time do you spend doing things for yourself? That could be reading a book, watching your favorite TV show, getting a manicure, etc. When was the last time you did something for yourself?
Being a caregiver is a difficult, time consuming and often stressful job. Each day seems to bring with it new highs and lows, and sometimes, progress and regress. As a former caregiver, I understand this roller coaster. For over a year, I was a caregiver, alongside my mom, for my 87 year old grandfather. We cooked for him, did his laundry, helped with his medications, helped with household tasks and basically anything and everything he needed, no matter how big or small. Days blurred one into the next with the same routine of school, work and caregiving. My grandfather lived next door to us so the only way to totally get away from caregiving was to leave the house, and feel terribly guilty in the process.
We would be on the go for what seemed like 20 hours a day with no downtime. The minute there was the opportunity for down time, we found something else that needed to be done whether at our house or my grandfather’s house. We were constantly burned out and stressed, feelings that are not helpful for anyone. After he passed away in February of 2018, my mom and I began to realize just how long of a year it had been. We realized how much we didn’t do for ourselves.
With that in mind, I am challenging you to be proactive with your self-care in 2019. Don’t wait for life to get out of hand to try to implement self-care practices. For the New Year, I’m personally challenging you, as a caregiver, to make time for your self-care. As you embark on this self-care journey, keep these tips in mind:
1.Self-Care is not Selfish
It’s so easy to feel that even 5 minutes of down time is selfish because there’s always more than can be done. Don’t let that little voice in your head convince you of that. Instead, change your perspective. We’ve all heard the phrase, “you can’t pour from an empty vessel.” You need time to relax and rejuvenate because caregiving is so draining. Ask yourself, “How can I provide the best care for my aging loved one when I’m running on empty?” The answer is, you can’t. You need to be at your best before you can do the best for someone else.
2. There’s only so much you can do.
You are not faster than a speeding bullet. You are not superman or superwoman. You have limits and running constantly on little sleep while being filled with stress is not a good combination. In fact, I think the real superheroes are the ones who know their limits and when to say no to others in order to say yes to themselves. As a caregiver, you may be faced with tasks that you can’t do for your aging loved one. Know your limits and when to call in for help, whether from another relative or from a professional.
3. Be intentional with your self-care.
Set goals for your self-care like you would for work. Set a goal to go to bed at a certain time or make sure to eat breakfast. It may be silly but take time to watch your favorite TV show or read another chapter in the book you’ve been trying to finish. Being intentional about your self-care and making time for those little things will make a huge difference in your overall health and outlook.
Be proactive in 2019 with your self-care. Start with good habits and intentional activities before you’re burned out and trying to fit in self-care time.
For more tips on self-care as a caregiver, visit the Family Caregiver Alliance National Center on Caregiving.
January's blog written by guest author, Sabrina Plumb, Communications Coordinator.