Why is Self-Care Important for Caregivers?
Self-care is an important aspect of life that reduces anxiety, improves overall mood and enables an individual to take care of themselves spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. Self-care is often equated with doing something that soothes the soul and the mind, as it is more than likely something that will the individual feels lifts their spirits and put them in a happy mindset. For caregivers, self-care is even more important because they spend countless hours each day taking care of others and their overall well-being sometimes gets pushed to the side. Caregivers are hardworking, kind and genuine people that put all their time and energy into caring for others, that they often forget to care for themselves and others forget to check in on their wellbeing.
Caregivers also are more prone to increased anxiety and depression, as their job may require them to give all of their physical, mental and emotional energy to their patients. Caregiving is not an easy job; it requires the individual to not only be there physically for their client but emotionally as well. It can be very draining to have to always be ‘on’ while working with constant physical challenges and providing constant companionship to their clients. At the end of the day, caregivers likely feel exhausted and they may start to experience the feeling of caregiver burnout and fatigue. This may be due to long hours on the job, the passing of a client, increased anxiety when away from their client that they are invested in or simply because they are fatigued. This is an indication that the caregiver may feel overworked, tired and in need of self-care!
Self-care comes in many different forms, as it is entirely individualized and customizable from person to person. Self-care may look different to different people, as they may need alternative things in that moment to brighten their day and improve their overall mood. Although self-care activities and their customizations may vary from person to person, there are several core self-care actions a caregiver can take in order to have a happy mind, body and soul. These activities include:
- Taking time to pick out and prepare a well-balanced meal that will help support an overall healthy and sustainable diet for caregivers. Taking the time to prepare meals that will serve as fuel for their mind will not only allow them to get through their day with energy, it will put them in a healthier mindset as they nourish their bodies with fuel that they need to maintain energy levels and optimal health.
- Getting a massage has several benefits, as it has been proven that professional massages can help reduce anxiety and stress. Taking time to unwind and simply get a massage will give them space to have an hour or so to themselves, full of relaxing techniques to not only loosen the body, but the mind. Additionally, messages that includes aromatherapy can give caregivers an enhanced experience that can relieve stress, anxiety, tension and headaches. Caregivers often spend hours working on their feet, which can cause them to have back-problems and pain in their joints or muscles. Not only will a massage have positive impacts on the mind, but physically massages have been proven to loosen muscles and alleviate pain in the back, neck, shoulders, etc.
- Taking time to meditate has several benefits, as it gives the caregiver time to connect their breath to their body, thus relaxing the mind and soul. Meditation takes time and practice and may not be a caregivers choice of self-care from the beginning, but when done properly, meditation can improve cognitive functions and relieve stress for caregivers.
- Taking anywhere between 30 minutes and one hour to exercise can be one of the most successful forms of self-care for caregivers. Exercise has been proven to reduce anxiety, stress and depression, as well as boost people’s overall mood and spirits. Taking the time to simply connect with their own body and get in touch with their strength and resistance will not only give caregivers a chance to push themselves physically, especially when they enjoy the exercise they do, but also give their mind a break from thinking about caregiving related issues.
- Getting fresh air, outside of exercise can help reduce depression and feelings of burn out, as well as reducing tiredness in often overworked individuals.
- Find an activity that soothes the soul, the mind and the body. For some caregivers, this may be through practicing yoga for 30 minutes at the end of a long day. For others, it may be spending time baking in their kitchen, as they can feel that is therapeutic and allows them to relax. For others that may be painting, drawing or coloring, as arts projects may give them time to relax their mind and unwind at the end of the day. Self-care is incredibly individualized and will highly depend on what the caregiver enjoys and the type of self-care they feel will benefit them the most. These various activities include:
- Taking a bath
- Getting a pedicure and/or foot massage
- Reading a book
- Reconnecting with old friends and family members
- Spend time with pets
Whether it is through connecting with loved ones, practicing yoga or tai chi or simply reading a book, self-care is so important for caregivers to unwind and relax at the end of their days. Being a caregiver is difficult and often chaotic work, leaving them susceptible to feeling empty, anxious, depressed or stressed at the end of the day. Self-care is one of the best ways to ensure that caregivers are healthy and will continue to flourish in their day to day routine. We encourage caregivers to actively seek out opportunities for self-care: don’t be afraid to take care of the most important person in your life – you!