Thinking about self-care might be the last thing on your mind if you are in the middle of caregiving, especially if you are an entrenched (see caregiving 101 post) caregiver. However, most caregivers focus so little on their personal self-care that they wouldn’t be considered eligible for caregiving if they considered all the things they don’t take time to do. Some caregivers forget to shower for a few days at a time or even to eat.
While thinking about self-care can seem overwhelming, the consequences of not caring for yourself can put you in the same situation as your caree, but perhaps even earlier than they were. It’s the whole oxygen mask theory. Cliche, yes. Critical, yes. If you are in a plane, the first thing they tell you is to put your own mask on first, so you can help others when you are, you know, alive.
There are four pillars of self-care to consider planning solutions for when you begin the caregiving journey: mind, body, heart, and spirit.
Pillar 1: Body
Taking care of your physical body is the first pillar. This represents things like showering, eating, exercising, and sleeping. While it is difficult to always find time to get all of these basic needs met, not doing them can result in longer term consequences related to long term stress.
Consider how to do just a little. You don’t have to be perfect. There may not be an hour to do the yoga class you love or time to create an all vegan masterpiece for lunch every day. However, you can take a 3 minute shower, skip washing your hair or maybe use a dry shampoo so you can skip a deep shampoo some days. You can walk to the corner of the block, it may only take a few minutes, but you are getting movement into your day. Consider now what you can do to keep your body in mind before you don’t have time to consider it.
Pillar 2: Mind
Sometimes caregiving can get boring. You are doing a lot of tasks that are possibly labor intensive, but perhaps are not mentally stimulating. Perhaps you used to read a lot or do crossword puzzles, but you don’t have time to read the entire book anymore. Consider how you can do this differently as well – and in shorter bursts.
Can you read one page a day? Can you read a chapter a day? Can you answer only one of the crossword puzzle questions at a time? What can you do in five minutes or less to keep your mind fresh?
Pillar 3: Heart
Caregiving can be one of the most rewarding and the most difficult (see our dream team post) experience of your life. There will be a lot of emotions that will come to the surface during each of the various stages of caregiving (see caregiving 101). You can consider journaling, even if it is only a minute a day, to help keep your emotional balance.
This might also be an area where you consider bringing in a ringer (see dream team post) to help out. There are support groups for caregivers, as well as therapists that could help. There is no shame in seeking professional support. Everyone needs different things to keep themselves emotionally healthy.
Pillar 4: Spirit
The spiritual pillar can be somewhat controversial. However, for those caregivers that do have a connection to the word or concept of spirit, it is can be described as the vital force within all things, or God, energy, or the Quantum field. How you feed this part of your self-care is personal and individual for each of us. Consider what this means to you and how you might include it in your self-care rituals.
What Does Self-care Look Like to You?
Do you think self-care is important in caregiving? What does self-care look like for you? Tell us what you think on our facebook page.