The Importance of Self-care for Caregivers
Your physical, emotional and mental well-being are vital to your ability to care for someone else. Remember that self-care is not synonymous with being self-centered – self-care is essential to replenishing our energy and restoring our sense of well-being so that we can live well and continue to do what we do best. Here are some tips to help you perform one of the most important – but often forgotten – tasks as a caregiver: taking care of you.
Start each day by taking your mental health temperature.
How am I doing? What do I need right now? Am I eating and resting enough?
Take one day at a time.
Many people feel a loss of control after a cancer diagnosis. By managing each day’s priorities as they come, you can focus in on the present rather than feeling unable to control the outcome.
Follow up with a plan.
One of the best ways to navigate your way through chaos is to anchor yourself in a daily routine. Start with the basic: eat well, take a relaxing bath, put on clothes that bring out your best you. Take time to unwind and renew your mental energy by spending time with friends and family, being in nature, or curling up with a good book or your favourite TV series. Start scheduling in regular exercise and make it an unwavering part of your routine. Exercise is one of the best ways to remove excess stress hormones from our body, promoting more harmonious physical and mental well-being.
Recognize the signs of stress:
feeling exhausted all the time, getting sick more often than usual, not sleeping enough, feeling impatient, irritated, or forgetful, not enjoying things you used to enjoy, withdrawing from people. If you feel stressed all the time, seek help. This could mean hiring someone to help care for the person with cancer or to help with daily chores, errands, and childcare.
Explore stress-management techniques.
Meditation, going for a long walk, yoga, or simply breathing deeply may help you feel more centered and relaxed. Healing therapies and creative expression such as art, music or dance may also help you to better manage your stress.
Ask for support when you need it.
No matter who we are, we all need support. While in many cases we can find the support we need from friends, partners, parents, children and others that are close to us, sometimes we do need to seek professional resources. It is up to each of us to recognize this need. If you are having a hard time coping with your emotions, seek help from your doctor or counselor. If we put off getting help, the need for it can manifest in ways that can end up hurting us and those closest to us – as resentment, grudges, unexpected moments of unkindness and lack of generosity.
Cultivate a positive attitude.
We may usually be a little sparing with praise. Now is the time to have the courage to be enthusiastic. Express appreciation, give compliments, and call out triumphs, no matter how small. If you see something good, speak up.
It is so important to recognize your own strengths and weaknesses as a caregiver. Know what you can handle on your own and when you need to ask someone else for help. There is no shame in acknowledging your limits, and it can help you to have a break rather than burn out.