"Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel." This quote from self-care coach Eleanor Brownn exemplifies how important it is for caregivers to take time for themselves to recharge. As a parent/primary caregiver of a child with a social, emotional, behavioral, or mental health challenge you know what it is like to dedicate yourself to caring for someone else. Being a caregiver and parent is important and it is a way for you to show your child(ren) love; however, it is exhausting and oftentimes thankless. November is National Caregivers' Month and it serves as a time to recognize all of the hard work caregivers do and to remind caregivers that not only is it okay to take care of yourself, it ultimately helps the person you are caring for too.
Have you ever experienced caregiver burnout? Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that can take place if you are constantly caring for someone and putting their needs over yours 100% of the time. This state of utter exhaustion can impact everything from your sleep to your cognitive functions and it is a vicious cycle because it becomes even more stressful to be a caregiver when you are in this heightened state of tiredness and stress. Check out this video on ways to tell if you are experiencing caregiver burnout, as well as even more tips on how to practice self-care as a caregiver.
We recognize that self-care looks different to everyone. Not everyone has the same amount of time, budget, or access to different ways to relax. Also, there is no universal way of relaxing and recharging; everybody has their own preferences on how they would want to practice self-love. That is why we reached out to a number of our staff members to see how they practice self-care. They all come from different backgrounds, have different family dynamics, and are located in counties all across PA. From our family to yours, we wanted to offer some ideas on ways you can take care of yourself. Hopefully one of our ideas inspires you to take some time to practice self-love; you deserve it.
" If you start by just giving yourself permission say taking 15- 20 minutes out of your day that is just for you. Make it a habit …then add a whole hour one time a week. Try to work it out to be maybe one day a month or a half of a day that is just for you. Schedule it as if it is a very important appointment. You cannot skip this appointment! You can use this time just to reflect on what is going on in your life at the moment, BUT you are not allowed any negativity. Use this time to give yourself that little pat on the back and say you may not have gotten the 50 things done that you wanted to but those 20 things on your to-do list you did great on those.
Don’t you want to teach your loved ones that it is ok to have some time to yourself? Smile, Smile, Smile eventually it will reach your heart and your eyes! Whatever your interest is find something that makes you happy and incorporate it into your day. There are online virtual support groups for caregivers. I personally like to cook and bake, read a book, write my thoughts down in a journal. It is not so much about what you do, as it is to actually do it!"
Take one day at a time.
Refresh your mind daily
Think of good thoughts on purpose
Read the serenity pray every morning
Listen to the quiet voice inside
Monitor negative people i.e. family
Do not try to keep up with the Jones. Who are they anyway?
KEEP LIFE SIMPLE
Value yourself for who you are apart of being the caregiver.
Intentionally get support by setting up play dates for your kids ahead of time with others for you to be you by stepping away and do what you want for you. (Be reciprocal in that exchange.)
Get involved with other caregivers to feel like you are understood.
I stink at this. lol. I cram too much in. I have the best intentions. I put a reminder on my phone to do breathing exercises every day. I try to journal a little also.
Don’t feel bad about thinking of yourself.
Do something nice for yourself at least once a week.
Start a bucket list that you know you can do and start doing it.
Adult coloring books, I find it so relaxing and can get lost in coloring. They have some pretty cool books out there now.
Saying no to things you don't want to do.
Picnic in the park by yourself (while we have sun)
Look into community connection groups. (Like woman groups or mom groups. Making connections with others outside of the home)
Coffee with a friend (not talking about your children)
Make a vision board and see how much you can complete.
Make your bed (sometimes we just want to crawl back in our beds and pull the covers over our heads)
"Avoid all or nothing thinking when considering your self-care. Sure a weekend away is great but finding the time to take 15 minutes to yourself each day keeps you going until you can get something more intensive. Can you find time to take a walk, watch your favorite show, or have your first or last cup of coffee or tea for the day alone? Those moments of peace that you intentionally set aside for yourself are important not only so you can continue to take care of your family but also so you teach your children that self-care is important."
"I like to recharge by spending a little time alone. Usually, I will read, or just even play a game on my phone as a way to "shut my brain off" for a little while. Occasionally I will "treat" myself to nice chocolates, or something I wouldn't indulge in often. Just a little reminder to myself to treat me as I would any other special person in my life. I tend to also nap as self-care, but that one doesn't always work for others.
I am the only member of the Parent Alliance who is not a parent or primary caregiver. I deeply admire the strength and resilience of all of the families that I work with on a daily basis and am able to see firsthand how the stress of raising a child with a social, emotional, behavioral, or mental health challenge can take a toll on a person. While I have not experienced caregiver burnout myself I have learned from all of the people that I get to interview for blogs and tip sheets how essential it is to set that foundation of making your mental health a priority. Then when a stressful situation arises you can take it on with a level head and you know how to continually check in with yourself throughout it.
To practice self-care; I spend time with the animals I love, watch Christmas movies (regardless of the time of year), find guided meditations on Youtube, and look up interesting writing prompts on Google to write for fun and not for work. I also try to schedule little pockets of joy into my day; for example, instead of drinking my morning coffee while checking emails I try making it a little earlier and having it outside, or I'll drink it while looking out my window to start my day off in a calm way.
We know that it sometimes doesn't feel "right" when you take time for yourself. You want nothing more than to make sure your children are happy and taken care of, but remember that taking that time for yourself, in turn, helps them. You are a better parent, partner, friend, and role model when your needs are being met and you are "filling up your tank." You also can show your children that self-love is an important part of life and they should make it a point to do things that make themselves happy. Hopefully, some of the tips and self-care ideas in this article sparked something in you that made you think "I would really enjoy taking the time to do that." If you need more help on how to make time for self-care, or what to do reach out to one of our FREE and CONFIDENTIAL Family Support Partners here.
We would love to hear from you! Click reply and let us know how you practice self-love (you can reply by video, audio, or text)!