It’s impossible to take care of a loved one without first practicing good self-care. These seven easy, effective ways help you to care for yourself when you’re providing care for others.
Caregiving can be all consuming. Whether you’re taking care of an infant or elderly loved one, it’s easy to become so focused on the needs of the other person that you lose sight of your own self-care. “It’s important to remember that taking time for yourself doesn’t diminish your love and desire to help,” says Erin Goodhart, Licensed Professional Counselor at Caron Treatment Center. “In fact, prioritizing your own emotional, physical and spiritual needs sets you up to provide the best care for those you’re caring for,” she says. 1
Goodhardt provides these seven easy, effective ways to care for yourself when you’re the caregiver:
- Give yourself permission. Many caregivers feel guilty spending time on self-care when they are responsible for someone else. But caregiving is a demanding role, and you need to treat yourself with the same understanding and patience you extend to others.
- Identify your brand of self-care. It could be something as simple as a cup of coffee undisturbed for 15 minutes, an episode of a funny podcast or a morning walk around the block. (For tips on fitting exercise into a busy schedule, check out mindful.sodexo.com/rethink-the-way-you-sweat/.) Communicate your need for time and space to the person you are caring for as well as your partner or another family member who can help with the caregiving. Transparency is an important part of self-care. 1
- Embrace small joys. Look for simple things that make you happy and incorporate them into your daily routine. Sing along to your favorite music in the car, treat yourself to fresh flowers at the grocery store or stop for a midday pumpkin spice latte. These brief moments of pleasure are all acts of self-care. 1 For tips on how to create space for yourself, check out mindful.sodexo.com/carve-out-space-for-yourself/.
- Connect with supportive people. Sharing your concerns and experiences with someone who empathizes with your situation can give you emotional relief. Look for caregiver support groups with members who are in a similar situation. 1
- Breathe deeply. Stepping away from your duties for a quick refresh can help you center yourself, reduce stress and promote a sense of calm. Take a few minutes to practice deep breathing exercises by inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly. 1
- Ask for help. It’s important to advocate for yourself, so you can continue to be present and provide good care. This looks different for everyone, so it’s essential for members of the caregiver’s support network to understand what’s most helpful. It can be as simple as picking up medications so you have one less errand to run or sending a text now and then reminding you it’s OK to take a break. 1
- Seek a professional ear. A therapist can offer a safe space for you to express your feelings, gain insights and learn effective coping strategies. With the right tools to care for yourself, you’ll become a more patient and present caregiver for the person you love. 1
For more tips on self-care, check out mindful.sodexo.com/self-care-routine/.