The Empowered Caregiver: Prioritizing Self-Care

AdobeStock_372942010-300x200This is the fourth and final installment for the empowered caregiver. This is about strategies for engaging in self care, even when that feels impossible.

When you are parenting your own kids, caring for the people who raised you, and also trying to hold down a job or build a career, finding time for yourself feels about as likely as winning the lottery. 

The reality is that caregiving quickly becomes a way of life, especially for caregivers who are part of the sandwich generation. It becomes second nature to put everyone else’s needs first, and after a little while you may stop even considering your own needs just to avoid disappointment. 

But if you are going to help anyone else, you have to help yourself first. The way to avoid running yourself into the ground is to be proactive and consistent about taking care of you. Caregiver burnout is real, but it doesn’t have to be your fate. 

Identify your core needs and set your boundaries.

It’s important to get really clear about what you need to maintain a sense of self even while you’re giving a lot to the people you love. You will have to make compromises, but there are some things you need to hold onto no matter what. Name what it is that keeps you going, and set boundaries to protect that. You might need to come up with a creative workaround to avoid giving up this activity or routine, and that’s okay. 

Find what grounds and rejuvenates you.

AdobeStock_148832028-300x201As a caregiver, you need to assemble a set of tools to help you deal with exhaustion, emotional fatigue, stress, anxiety, and all the other negative side effects that often accompany the caregiver role.

Your tools might include meditation, deep breathing, yoga, self hypnosis, or tai chi. On the other hand, your tools might include losing yourself in a bona fide beach read, watching a comedy special, gardening, or going for a run with your dog. 

There is no one-size-fits-all relaxation practice. Find what works for you, and do it. No judgment. No guilt.

Make sure you’re eating well and getting enough good sleep.

It’s super common for caregivers to stop taking care of their basic needs. Eating well and getting enough good sleep are two critical needs that often go unfulfilled. But without the right nutrition to put fuel in your tank, and the right amount of sleep to restore you, you may find yourself becoming more stressed, irritable, and generally unwell. 

Maintain your friendships and hobbies. 

Most of us already feel like there simply isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done. But try not to let caregiving responsibilities cancel all your other plans. While it can seem frivolous to make time for your favorite pastimes and keeping up with friends, the benefits of keeping this part of your life cannot be overstated. 

Seek the support of a therapist.

Even if you have access to friends and family who are ready to support you through the caregiving experience, it may also be a good idea to consider working with a professional therapist. 

An experienced therapist can provide professional guidance through difficult times, and help you address and overcome challenges in a safe and healthy way. 

Be kind to yourself. AdobeStock_426181719-300x200

Being a caregiver is never easy, but with the right mindset, support, and perspective, you can handle it.

  • Be gentle when you talk to yourself.
  • Practice self compassion.
  • Acknowledge that what you are doing is hard. You will make mistakes.
  • You will sometimes feel like you’re failing on all fronts in your life and you might feel angry or resentful, and that’s totally normal.
  • Don’t let your inner critic get you down. Replace that cruel voice with a softer, more encouraging one that speaks to you with respect and acceptance.
  • You don’t need to be perfect all day every day.
  • You are allowed to feel your feelings.
  • You are allowed to take care of yourself.

At the end of the day, you can only do your best and try to enjoy each small moment of happiness as it comes.

As Rosalyn Carter said, “There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers. Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver.”

We are all in this together.

Related Posts:

The Empowered Caregiver: Collaborating with Family

The Empowered Caregiver: Learning to Accept Help

The Empowered Caregiver: Essential Skills and Knowledge

8 Signs of Caregiver Burnout and What You Can Do About It

When the Child Becomes the Parent: 5 Tips to Ease the Transition

3 Respite Programs So You Can Take a Break

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