As a caregiver I have a strong tendency to put the needs of other people above my own. I became acutely aware of this problem while caring for my toddler, 5 year old and 90 year old grandfather (with dementia) in my home. Constantly on call, I eventually ran out of energy. I now realize that I take better care of my loved ones when I also take care of myself. Providing regular times to tune in and "refill" helps me respond to the very real needs of my family. Here are my top three tips for self-care:
- Be honest. Ignoring my emotions works against me. When I felt guilty that I didn't know how to balance everyone's needs, I "tuned out" my inner voice and didn't ask for help until my health suffered. Now I give myself permission to feel whatever is going on inside, and am a better caregiver because of it.
- Take a daily mini-break. The Joy Diet: 10 Essential Practices for a Happier Life, by Martha Beck, changed my life. Step number one in The Joy Diet is to "Do Nothing" for a short time each day. I wholeheartedly embrace this practice. Fifteen minutes of quiet time works wonders to soothe my internal world, gather strength, and increase my efficiency as I return to my duties as a caregiver.
- Nurture yourself. I used to think that nurturing myself involved expensive activities like fancy dinners or a day at a spa. Now I realize it is easy to nurture myself once I know what nourishes me from the inside out. I encourage you to join me by making a list of favorite activities that you enjoy with each of your senses. What do you love to see, hear, touch, taste and smell? I was surprised to discover how simple and inexpensive many of my answers are. Having a delicious cup of tea from my favorite tea set, listening to wonderful music or soaking up a warm patch of sunlight is all on my list. Begin doing at least three things on your list every day and you will find even more joy in your life as a caregiver.
What are your favorite ways to nurture yourself? Do you have a favorite self-care tip for caregivers? I would love to hear from you. Post a comment and share your wisdom here!