Caregiving can be an exciting and fulfilling career that allows us to give ourselves in service to others. It allows us to show compassion and love to other human beings in their time of need. Caregivers often give their time, thoughts, and energy to others. However, many caregivers forget to give care to the one person who needs it most: themselves. Today, I want to focus on self-care for caregivers.
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Self-care for caregivers can often feel like a selfish act, especially for the caregiver. This is false. To be our best selves and effectively care for others, we must take the time and energy to practice self-care. Here are some tips for caregivers who need a little extra motivation to take the time to care for themselves.
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What is Self-Care and Why do Caregivers need it?
When you hear the term self-care, you may think of trips to the spa. It may seem like something expensive and time-consuming. These are misconceptions. Self-care is any activity that you do with the focus of taking care of yourself. Self-care is more about making time for yourself within your busy schedule and less about luxurious treatments and shopping sprees. (Although those are two of my favorite self-care activities.)
In a profession where you are expected to give much of your time and energy to others, it is important to make sure that you stay full with energy to give. You cannot continue to help others if you are feeling burnt out or tired all the time. Caregivers must take the time to care for themselves if they truly want to give the best care to their patients.
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6 Tips for Prioritizing Yourself While Caring for Others
Prioritizing your health and wellness is a necessary part of being able to effectively care for others. Here are some tips for self-care for caregivers:
1. Schedule a Stretch
Whether you realize it or not, caregiving is a physically demanding career. As a caregiver, you are most likely on your feet for most of the day. You may do a lot of walking and may even have to lift things frequently. Scheduling time for a daily stretch is a great way to take care of yourself while caring for others.
Fifteen minutes is all you need to perform stretches that will keep your muscles limber throughout the day. Keeping it as simple as touching your toes and reaching up to the sky may be all you need to feel better. Although stretching is great for your health and wellness, it also allows us to build a habit that we can complete every day.
If you take the time every day to do a little stretch, you are ensuring that you have fifteen minutes to focus on a singular task. As you stretch, you can take the time to set an intention or goal for the day. You can also take the time to think about the things you are grateful for in your life. It is also a great opportunity to clear your mind and simply relax as you prepare your body for the day.
2. Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
Although it may not seem like self-care, your diet is the main thing that fuels you. If you do not have a proper diet for the job that you do, you will get stressed out easier and feel more tired after a long day. In a physically demanding job such as caregiving, eating a well-balanced diet and drinking plenty of water is essential.
Throughout your busy day, you are probably not taking the time to eat the foods that will keep you energized and feeling your best. Planning your meals ahead of time can help ensure that you’re eating healthy foods that will fuel your body right. Prepping your lunches ahead of time can help you make sure that you have a balanced and healthy meal every day that week.
In addition to a well-balanced diet, it is also important to drink plenty of water. As someone who is on their feet all day, it is important to stay hydrated. Having a water bottle with you at all times is a great way to ensure that you have a drink when you feel thirsty.
It is not necessary to drink gallons of water a day, but you should frequently be drinking throughout the day. A hydrated body will feel more energized, will be more resilient to stress, and will have you feeling more focused throughout the day.
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3. Mindful Meditation
One of the first things that may come to mind when thinking about self-care is meditation. Meditation is a great way to set aside time to clear your mind and destress. Meditation is proven to lower stress levels, lower blood pressure, and improve overall mental health. Taking time each day to meditate can make sure that you stay positive all day long.
Meditation does not have to be complicated. All you need is a quiet space and a few minutes out of your day. Sit where you are comfortable, whether it’s on a chair on the floor. Take deep breaths in through your nose and out of your mouth as you start to relax.
Focus on your breathing and attempt to clear your mind. You can use this time to relax and enjoy the calm. You can also use this time to focus your thoughts on something specific. This can be something that you are grateful for, a positive thought you want to reminisce on, or an intention for the rest of your day. Taking the time to sit, relax, and clear your thoughts, will give you everything you need to continue giving the best possible care.
4. Personal Pampering
If you spend your entire day taking care of other people, it may be difficult to take care of yourself when you get home. Just like a chef who goes through the drive-thru after her dinner service, you may not want to take the time to do the work for yourself.
However, if you want to have the energy to continue to do your career well and avoid burnout, you must find the time to take care of yourself. If you plan the day ahead of time and prepare to do a few things that you find enjoyable, self-pampering can become an easy and enjoyable activity.
Pampering can be as simple as a hot shower or bath with your favorite aromas. Whatever it is that you enjoy when it comes to an evening at the spa. Taking this time can refresh us and replenish the energy we must have to take care of others. When we take the time to pamper ourselves, we feel our best. When we feel our best, we can do our best work.
5. Set Strict Work-Life Barriers
Caregiving is a job that often comes home with you. If you’re not waiting by the phone, you are most likely thinking about those you care for. When we don’t set barriers between our work life and our home life, we can burn out much faster. That is why it is important to set strict barriers that separate our work from our home.
Barriers can be set in a variety of different ways. For example, a tiered contact solution can be put in place to limit the amount of work-related distractions you receive when at home. For non-emergencies, have people contact an email or send a message. These things are a lot easier to separate yourself from and can be read at a convenient time. Only have people call you if it is necessary to have your attention at that moment. A tiered system like this one can help you set boundaries, disconnect from your work, and enjoy your time at home.
Another way to set boundaries between your work life and your home life is to establish a routine that helps you separate your work from your home. This can be something as simple as changing clothes as soon as you get home from your workwear into your favorite pair of sweatpants or lounge clothes. Doing this routine every day will help your brain make the switch from work to relaxation.
These barriers should also apply to your rest times. Scheduling a strict bedtime every night is a great way to ensure that you get a great night’s rest. Learning to say no to events and activities that do not fall within your schedule can help you secure the time you need to care for yourself. Try not to take on too many late nights or additional tasks so that you can protect your valuable resting time.
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6. Reach Out
Part of self-care is creating a network of loving friends and family to talk to when you feel stressed. Self-care is not only about the things we do for ourselves but the ability to deal with stress when it feels overwhelming. Having a go-to person to share your challenging times with can do wonders for your mental health.
Social activities are also a huge part of self-care. Take the time to do fun and interesting things with people that you love. This can recharge your batteries and prepare you to continue giving great care. Consider finding other caregivers you can connect with for conversation. Having a weekly lunch or coffee meet-up can give you a space to vent while sharing techniques for self-care as a caregiver.
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Caregiving is a tough job that requires a lot of energy and attention. You will be more energized and attentive to the needs of others if you take the time to take care of yourself. Hopefully, I have shared some tips and strategies that will help you to establish and maintain a self-care routine that will help you to be the best caregiver that you can be!
Stroke Recovery Foundation, The Secret to Avoiding Caregiver Burnout
Harvard Health Publishing, Self-Care for the Caregiver