Caring for the Caregiver – Simple Ways to Practice Self-Care
November 19, 2019
November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to honor those like you who selflessly take care of others. (Though we hope people recognize and thank you more than once a year!) And while ideally, you’d get a dozen roses and a babysitter so you can go out and do whatever the heck you want, we know life doesn’t always work out that way.
But we still think it’s the perfect time to encourage you to tend to the one person who may be last on your list – yourself. To help, we’ve come up with some creative, but practical, ways to practice self-care. Because let’s be real, the last thing you need during Caregivers Month is guilt for not living up to some ideal of self-care.
6 Easy Ways to Make Time for Self-Care
Turn Errands into Entertainment
As a caregiver, you likely spend a lot of time shuttling kids back and forth – to doctors’ visits, school, friends’ houses, and everywhere in between. Then there are all the errands you have to run on top of it. Why not take advantage of this “windshield time” and enjoy a fun podcast or book on tape?
You likely don’t have much free time for reading, surfing the internet or watching TV. This way you can still enjoy a good story, learn more about your favorite topic, or stay up to date on current events.
Podcasts can be found on Spotify, the Apple Podcast App and the Google Podcast App, as well as the individual podcasts’ websites. You can also access audiobooks through many local libraries (free!), Amazon, Audible.com and a variety of other subscription services. The possibilities are near endless.
Make That 5 Minute Shower Count
A spa day would be nice but finding the time and money can be hard. Instead, make the most of one of the few times you get some quiet – in the shower. Turn on your favorite music, use the “nice” towels, and buy products that smell and feel great. You could even upgrade your shower head to make the everyday a bit more luxurious.
Bonus points if you extend this idea to other parts of your morning routine. Yes, the expensive coffee is certainly worth it, and a scented candle anytime can go a long way.
Make Your Favorite Meal for Once
Most of us design meals around the kids’ tastes, or what the neighbor happened to drop off. But some nights it’s okay to make something just for you.
Yes, the kids may complain about, pick at, or flat out refuse your favorite Thai, Italian or comfort-food dish. But that’s what PB & J or eggs are for. They’ll be fine for just one night, and you most certainly deserve a good meal.
Turn Playtime into Rest Time – For You!
Sometimes it’s okay to be “lazy”. With a little creativity, you can design games that excite the kids and leave you with time for some R&R. Three favorites?
- Secret Message: Have the kids write secret messages on your back with their fingers (or shapes if they can’t spell yet). Your job is to guess what they say (but a wrong guess extends your time laying down). You can also have them place small objects on your back to identify.
- Scavenger Hunt: Send the kids on a scavenger hunt to find items around the house. While they’re busy searching, you’ll get some time for yourself. Then have them formally present their findings. Some “treasure” ideas? 6 wooden blocks, 3 hair ties, a book with an animal on the cover, a purple article of clothing etc.
- Lazy Hide and Seek: All the rules are the same but rather than walking around looking, yell out your guesses. “Are you in the closet?”. They yell ‘no’ and you keep guessing, without ever leaving the couch.
Ask for and Accept Help
Okay, this one isn’t so sneaky. And in an ideal world, you’d be asking for help on a regular basis. But we understand that’s easier said than done. It can seem like even more work to reach out, and sometimes when people do offer to help, it’s not exactly what you had in mind.
But no one can do it alone, and outsourcing even one task can free up a surprising amount of time for you. Analyze your week and try making a list of all the things someone could take off your plate. (Need ideas? We have a few here under the “Ways Others Can Help” tab). Brainstorm who might be good at each one, then reach out – a fast text is sometimes more than enough!
Feel you don’t have anyone to ask? You may be surprised how a mere acquaintance is eager to help. Try a neighbor or a parent of your child’s friend. The worst thing they can say is no.
If getting help just doesn’t feel like an option, you can still free up some time by simply letting things go. Consider what has to be done, what should be done, and what can wait. Then focus only on the things that matter most.
Are your kids safe, fed and dressed? Then you’re likely doing better than you think. Let the dishes and the laundry be, and use whatever time you have to relax.
Feel Your Feelings
One quick way to experience some relief is to simply allow yourself to feel your feelings. When you’re caring for an ill or injured child, it can be exhausting, draining and frustrating. It’s okay to be angry, resentful and sad some of the time.
Letting yourself sit with these feelings can be cathartic. Give yourself permission to experience them without any judgement or blame. Once you stop fighting, you may be surprised how quickly they dissipate.
And of course, if you feel negative emotions are interfering with your life over an expanded period of time, reach out for help. Your or your child’s healthcare team will likely be able to provide some referrals and support.
We hope you make time for yourself today, and every day. You’re doing one of the hardest jobs in the world after all.
Happy Caregiver’s Month! Thank you for all you do.