How to Take Care of Yourself As a Caregiver

So many women find themselves in the role of caregiver in various ways throughout their lives. As a woman, you might be a caregiver for children. You could also be providing care to an aging relative, such as a parent. You could be a short-term caregiver during a specific period, such as if your spouse were hurt in an accident and had to go through a long recovery.

There are many examples of how we’re caregivers in our lives, but something that we tend to overlook is the importance of caring for ourselves as well. 

If you don’t practice self-care, you’re not going to be able to care for others in your life. 

It’s so vital that you remember to fill your own cup because that’s the best way to then provide support to your loved ones who might be depending on you. 

The following are some tips to take care of yourself when you’re also responsible for caring for others in any capacity. 

Let Go of Guilt When You’re “Selfish”

We tend to think of anything we’re doing for ourselves rather than others as inherently selfish. The reality is, you can’t be the best possible caregiver when you don’t also take care of yourself. 

Taking care of yourself is never something you should feel guilty about. Instead, it should be something that you realize also benefits the people you love.

We hear this comparison a lot but it works well—when a flight attendant goes through safety protocols they tell you to put on your oxygen mask before you help others. The principle applies to self-care too. 

When you feel your best physically and mentally, it will allow you to pass benefits on the person then you’re a caregiver to. 

Letting go of guilt can be an incredibly empowering feeling. It does take work, but once you can do it, you’re going to feel generally better about many areas of your life. 

Set Limits

As a caregiver, you probably feel pulled in many different directions. You have to set limits as to what you can and can’t do. 

There will be things that you have to say no to, and that’s okay. 

Prioritize and make choices, and then once you do that, be firm in what you’ll say yes and no to. 

Do Breath Awareness Exercises Every Day

Sometimes we’ll equate self-care with expensive spa days or other financial investments. Yes, self-care can include those things, but there are also more straightforward strategies that are free and can be integrated into your daily life. 

For example, take ten minutes of your day every day to do breath awareness exercises. 

You can deeply relax and be more mindful and present.

To do breath awareness, simply find a quiet, comfortable place to sit. Close your eyes and start to notice your breath, which will help pull you into the present. 

You should breathe in slowly for five counts through your nose, hold it for five counts and exhale for five counts. 

You can continue this for 10 minutes, and if it helps you stay focused, repeat mantras. 

Schedule Time For Yourself

We’ve seen that when you schedule something and even write it down as a time commitment, you’re much more likely actually to do it. Just like you schedule appointments and other things you have to do in your life, pencil in personal time too. 

Otherwise, it’s too easy to neglect yourself and your needs.

Try to set aside a few hours every week where you do nothing else except what you enjoy and what makes you feel happy and relaxed. 

Maybe you even schedule time for yourself every day, even if it’s in shorter increments. 

Take Care of Your Physical Health

When you take care of your physical health, it’s going to help your mental health. You’ll be stronger both physically and emotionally and better equipped as a caregiver. 

Taking care of your physical health means that you eat and sleep well. Prioritize these things in your life. 

You should also make time for physical activity every day. 

Good physical health, exercise, and healthy eating habits are self-care in and of themselves.

Many times caregivers neglect their own health, which can lead them to be more prone to get sick or develop injuries. If that happens, then, of course, you’re not going to be able to provide care at all. 

Along with diet, exercise and sleep, make sure that you’re regularly visiting your own health care providers for checkups. 

Stay Socially Connected

When you’re a caregiver, it can be very isolating. Remember to stay connected to a social safety net, whatever that might look like for you. 

For example, you might make time for coffee with a friend every week, or you could join an online or in-person support group for other caregivers. 

When you’re spending time with friends or loved ones, laughing is a great way to boost your spirits, and it might even help your physical health. 

If you don’t have someone in your life that you feel comfortable sharing your feelings with, consider meeting with a therapist. 

Finally, watch yourself for signs of burnout. You might avoid asking for help or going to loved ones for support because you want to feel like a superhero or like you can do everything on your own. When you don’t ask for help, that puts you at greater risk of burnout. 

When you face burnout, there can be both mental and physical complications that result. 

Signs of burnout include a lower immune system leading you to get sick more often, feeling like you’re overburdened, feeling number, or over-reacting to the things people around you say or do. You might also feel like you’re on an emotional roller coaster you can’t get off of. 

If you start to notice these symptoms, it’s time to take a step back and put more effort into caring for yourself. 

Photo by Esther Ann on Unsplash

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