Self-Care for the Caregiver
The work of a caregiver is deeply fulfilling, rich, challenging, complex, difficult and draining.
If we are to truly care well for others we must first care for ourselves. Here are some suggestions for navigating this special role.
You deserve to lead a joyful, whole life.
No matter how much you love and value your work, your life is multi-faceted. Family, friends, and your other interests deserve your time and attention. You deserve your time and attention.
Your work does not define you.
You are a unique, worthy person outside of your work life. While relationships can help you feel good about yourself, they are not what is inside you. Sometimes you need to stop “doing” and focus on simply “being”.
You are not the only one who can help.
When you feel indispensable, you tend to ignore your own needs. There are others in your community who can fill your shoes.
A well-balanced diet, adequate sleep and regular exercise keep you at your best.
You know how important these are for those you support, but may neglect them for yourself.
If you have been over-involved in care giving for too long, you may have forgotten how to take care of yourself.
You may need to rediscover ways of caring for and nurturing yourself. You may even need to relearn how to explore your own feelings instead of focusing on everyone else’s.
Remember to maintain healthy boundaries in your helping relationships.
As a caregiver, you cannot avoid getting emotionally involved. Nor would you want to. Active empathy allows you to be a good companion. However, you are responsible to others, not for others. Healthy boundaries serve to keep you balanced.
Cultivate your time-management skills.
Set practical goals for how you spend your time, including holistic self care.
Don’t expect yourself to be perfect.
Our helping efforts are not always successful. Even when we offer compassionate, “on-target” help, the recipient isn’t always prepared to receive it. Mistakes are an integral part of learning and growth, not measurements of self-worth.
Practice setting limits and alleviating stresses you can do something about.
You should enjoy what you accomplish in helping others but don’t berate yourself for what is beyond you. Cultivate a clear sense of expectations, setting realistic goals.
Listen to your inner voice.
As a caregiver, at times you will feel overloaded. When your inner voice begins to whisper its fatigue, listen carefully and allow yourself some down-time.
Express your personal uniqueness in both your work and play.
Don’t be afraid to demonstrate your special talents and abilities. Take time each day to remind yourself what is important to you. If you only had three months to live, what would you do?
You are a spiritual being.
Spending time alone focusing on self-understanding and self-love, you can become more present to those you work with. Appreciating the beauty of life and living, we renew our spirit and open more genuinely to those we companion.