When you’re a caregiver in any capacity, you are selfless and compassionate. You are probably giving all of yourself on a daily basis, and there might not be a lot of situations where you’re shown appreciation.
There are certain ways that you can show appreciation to yourself in the form of self-care. If you’re a caregiver, never forget how important it is to fill your own cup from time to time. You can’t offer the best of yourself if you aren’t being taken care of, and no one can take care of you better than you.
The following are ways that you gift yourself as a caregiver.
Identify Your Barriers
Often what gets in the way of you taking care of yourself as a caregiver are your own barriers that you set. You might have certain beliefs or attitudes that prevent you from taking care of yourself. You have to start to rethink your own barriers.
For example, maybe you hold the misconception that it’s selfish to put your own needs first, or you could have a hard time asking for what you need.
You might also feel like you’re fully responsible for someone else’s health, or if you do something right, you’ll get the respect you feel you deserve.
As a caregiver, there might be a lot of negative self-talk going on that creates these blockades to your taking care of yourself in the way you need.
We base our behavior on our thoughts and beliefs, including when these are misconceptions. That can lead to you constantly feeling frustrated or like you’re a failure.
Ask yourself what you might be doing to get in the way of taking care of yourself.
Reduce Your Personal Stress
Once you’ve thought about how your attitudes are preventing you from practicing self-care, you can start to develop strategies to handle it.
You have to reduce your personal stress.
Your stress is influenced by so many things, including your coping mechanisms, whether you’re voluntarily a caregiver, and the relationship you have with the person you’re providing care to. There are also certain situations that are more stressful than others that relate to the care recipient’s health. For example, caring for someone with dementia tends to be highly stressful.
To reduce your personal stress, no matter what’s going on around you, learn how to recognize the warning signs in yourself early on. For example, maybe you start to be more irritable, or your sleep patterns change when you’re stressed. Then, identify the sources of stress, and from there, what you can change and what you can’t.
Once you identify what is within your power to change, you can take action and regain a sense of control.
Ask For and Accept Help
Self-care is about more than taking time for a warm bath, although that can absolutely be part of it. Self-care is more about learning to have a sense of compassion for yourself and your needs like you do for other people.
To take care of yourself, know when you need to ask for and then accept help.
It’s likely that if you look back over your time as a caregiver, people have offered help along the way, but you’ve turned them down for various reasons. You may feel like you can handle everything on your own, or you want to avoid burdening other people.
Being someone who actively practices self-care means you should reach out when you need help. Accept what’s available to you. There’s no shame in accepting help.
Set Aside 10 Minutes a Day for Breath Awareness
Breath awareness is something that you can do for yourself that’s free, easy, and impactful. Set aside ten minutes each day for breath awareness and set the alarm if you have to.
To do breath awareness, you can sit comfortably and close your eyes. Start to notice your breath. You’ll probably have fleeting and distracting thoughts but let them go. Bring your attention back to your breath. Breathe in through your nose slowly for five counts. Hold it, pause for five counts, and then exhale for five. Continue this for 10 minutes every day, no matter what.
Prioritize Eating and Sleeping Well
Your physical needs are going to be what fuels your capabilities as a caregiver. If you aren’t in good physical health, not only are you not going to be able to be the best possible caregiver, but you’re not going to be up for other challenges in your life.
Eating and sleeping well are the ultimate forms of self-care.
Getting enough sleep is going to help prevent burnout, as is taking time for nutritious meals.
Chronic stress is associated with inflammation in the body. If you have a lot of foods in your diet that are processed or high in sugar, that’s going to increase inflammation. Alcohol is also something to be very careful about. First, you don’t want to rely on it as a coping mechanism. Alcohol also increases inflammation and negatively affects your sleep quality.
Set Boundaries and Say No
If you’re someone who’s not used to saying no, it can be intimidating at first, but doing so and learning how to set firm boundaries is empowering. If you’re taking on too many responsibilities, it’s going to lead to burnout.
Think about the things that maybe you usually say yes to that aren’t necessary, and begin to cut them out.
If you’re unsure of whether or not to take something on, listen to your gut.
Finally, stay socially connected. This could be as simple as taking time out on a regular basis to get coffee with a trusted friend, sharing what you’re going through with your spouse, or you might join a support group for other caregivers. Don’t isolate yourself.
Social connection is important for your mental and physical health. If you’re socially active, you’re less likely to experience conditions like depression and cognitive decline. There’s a correlation between social support and good overall mental health, and it may even help you live longer.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio at Pexels
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