Caregiving is rewarding, but there is also a cost to you personally, as the caregiver, over time when you don’t add purposeful, intentional self-care into your schedule.
The costs can come in all shapes and sizes, but they generally can be sorted into 4 main categories: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
Actually you probably could say there is a 5th area, financial. But, for the focus of this post, we are going to look at these main four.
Who is A Caregiver?
Before we move on, I would like to take a quick look at who caregivers are. After my last post, The Caregiver’s Calling, I received a few comments that caregiving sounds a lot like being a mother. I totally agree! According to the good ole’ Merriam-Webster dictionary a caregiver is:
Someone who gives help and protection to someone (such as a child, an old person, or someone who is sick).
I think that sums up a Mom pretty well don’t you! I think it also includes Dads, Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, nurses, teachers…
Self-Care and the Caregiver
As a caregiver you know you need time off to rest. However what we tend to forget is that a self-care plan needs to include a lot more than getting enough sleep each night. It also needs to include fun, fellowship, family, friends, learning, getting outside, and more.
So here’s a general overview of each category and what self-care might look like under each. Below each section I’ve listed a set of starter questions for you to use to evaluate what is working and what is not working in your current self-care plan.
- Are you eating healthy, life-giving foods or giving into junk food cravings too often? (raising my hand on this one… I eat fairly well most of the time, but I do like my sugar!)
- Are you keeping well hydrated throughout the day?
- Are you exercising 30-minutes a day at least 3-4 times a week?
- Are you getting enough sleep? (check out this great podcast on the benefits of more sleep – note, naps are encouraged!)
- Are you pursuing activities you enjoy outside of caregiving?
- Are you setting aside time for hobbies like crafting, writing, hiking, woodworking, cooking?
Are you reading for enjoyment or to learn something new?
- Are you taking brain breaks during the day? (Some of my favorite brain breaks are Instagram, reading a magazine, or taking Bailey outside and sitting for a few minutes to get some fresh air.)
- Are you taking mini retreats or weekend retreats on a regular basis?
- Would it be helpful to attend a caregiving support group?
- Are you journaling as a way to express your thoughts and feelings?
- Do you have a confidant or a sympathetic ear for when you need to talk? Will they also give you that kick-in-the-pants we all need from time-to-time?
- Do you keep a daily gratitude journal reminding you of the good things in your life?
- Are you spending time in prayer?
- Are you spending time reading the Bible?
- Do you memorize scripture to help you on the tough days and celebrate on the good days?
- Are you attending church you enjoy and can get involved in?
As you read through each category list how did you do? Were you able to say yes to any of these questions and ideas? There are more questions one could add to the list of course, but this is a good starting point in helping you think about your current self-care routine.
We are complex people with many needs, and when you add caregiving into the mix you are adding even more layers of complexity. Because of that we need to look at our self-care routines in layers as well.
By layers I mean keeping a list of ideas for short 5-15 minute breaks during the day, an afternoon of reading, coffee or going out to lunch, to planning a long weekend away from home.
Now It’s Time To Make Your Own List of Self-Care Ideas
As you look through this list are there any that jump out at you? Did you mentally add a few more to the list? Great! Grab a pen and paper to start creating a list of self-care ideas. Actually I would suggest a few different lists so you can organize ideas by the time involved.
List #1 – Daily Take-A-Break Ideas (5-30 Minutes)
Ideas from this list ideally should be put on your calendar at least once each day.
List #2 – Weekly or Monthly Ideas (30 minutes to 2-3 hours)
This list will probably include ways to get out of the house, take a walk, go run some errands, or visit friends. We all need a change of scenery from time-to-time.
List #3 – Quarterly Ideas (1-3 days)
The ideas and routines on this list will take more of a commitment from you to actually implement them and probably support from others to make it happen. But it is important to consider adding this type of self-care to your schedule for your own health and well-being.
In reality I write posts like this for me! I need these ideas and reminders to take a break from business development, client work, and from my caregiving activities. We all do, so let’s encourage each other to “Find stillness in the midst of life (caregiving)”.
I would love to hear from you about what ways you incorporate self-care into your role as a caregiver. Leave a comment below about your self-care routine OR share what your biggest struggle or obstacle is in getting self-care onto your calendar.
Marta Goertzen is an entrepreneur, writer and nature photographer. She daily explores the trails and beaches of the South Central Oregon Coast with her buddy Bailey. You can follow along on their adventures on Instagram. She is also the author of several books including her newest, “Choosing Gratitude: A Daily Quiet Time Journal”.