8 Self-Care Strategies for Caregivers
As a parent, it becomes easy to get into the habit of putting others before yourself. If you work with someone who has special needs or care for someone with special needs, that habit can become more self-ingrained. Suddenly, you find yourself feeling depleted of energy and feeling low on patience. You begin to think you cannot afford time for yourself to practice self-care. In truth, you need to take care of yourself in order to feel well enough to care for someone else.
Raise your hand if you consistently put other people before yourself. Now raise two hands if you feel selfish when you do. OK, put your hands down. If you frequently deny yourself of your needs, you cannot adequately take care of others.
You can’t do everything, but you can pick one thing to do for yourself each day. If you rarely get a moment to yourself, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a moment. It means you need to take a moment. Take it. If not for yourself, practice self-care for the person or people you care about. They need you at your best just as much as you need to stop feeling worn out.
I fail to take care of myself often. No need to feel guilty about it. I think sometimes it’s just the nature of our personalities. We must change, step by step, day by day, if we want to do better for our children, significant others or friends (whomever you care for).
You can choose one, a few or all of these strategies for self-care. But for just a few minutes each day, find some time for yourself and do it.
1. Eat something good, something that fuels your body properly. Eat well. Never skip meals. Even if you eat something small that you scarf down, eat something. Your body needs calories to burn as fuel to keep moving.
2. Exercise. Here’s something lacking in my own life right now. We must move our bodies. According to the CDC, 30 minutes per day, five days per week will do. I know it might seem impossible, but you can even take someone with you to go exercise if you just go for a walk, go to the pool or go to the park. And if you feel unable to exercise five days per week, start with two days.
3. Make time for your medical care. Do you know how often I put off doctor’s appointments because either (a) I felt I had no time for it or (b) I knew I’d go with children in tow? You need to get a physical once a year and if you have health issues like I do (Hashimoto’s disease, fibromyalgia, depression), and you must make it to those appointments. The other day, I went to the OB-GYN and took both of my boys with me. The doctor and nurse fixed the curtains so I had privacy, and we did what we had to do. Although this scenario is not ideal, it is necessary for me to take care of myself.
4. Keep a journal. I do not journal every day, but when I do, it helps. Originally, I started my blog because I needed a way to get my feelings out. Since then, it’s become less a journey of self-discovery and more a journey of helping others. But I do have days where I am less positive and just need to get it out. If you feel lost, this might help you find yourself.
5. Sleep. Sleep can become a precious commodity when you raise a child on the autism spectrum. My son rises early and with gusto. The days of staying up until midnight went away. My husband set an alarm on my phone to remind me to take my medication so I could sleep. Because, yes, I also have insomnia. If I forget to take my medication on time, I’m up later. If I don’t sleep, I’m good for no one.
6. Consider counseling. If you frequently feel sad, anxious or irritable, you may need to consider this option. Don’t know where to start? Type “counseling” into Google and then click on “Maps” to see who provides therapy in your area. You can also call your insurance company and ask where to find a network-covered therapist in your area. Trust me, if you feel depressed or anxious, you feel it along with numerous others. Sometimes depression sneaks up on you. Get some help so you can help the people you care about.
7. Find your source of stress relief. Stress relief can come in many forms. One resource I need to begin using again is Happify, which comes with daily activities to relieve stress and promote overall well-begin. Yoga, meditation and breathing exercises all help with decreasing stress levels.
8. Do something fun! Play a video game. Join the choir. Get a coffee somewhere. Spend a few moments painting or drawing each day. Do you. If you need to bring others with you, maybe they will enjoy the activity as well. But find some time each week to do something fun.
You can practice self-care. Like the Nike ad says: “Just do it.”
How do you take care of yourself? Provide some tips in the comments section.
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