How to make time for self-care

When I meet with for a one-on-one support visit, self-care is a highlighted topic of discussion. I provide a packet for the caregiver to have with many useful tools and resources that help them in their caregiving role. One, in particular, is called the Caregiver's Bill of Rights. I will ask the caregiver to ensure that they read the caregiver rights daily so that they remember the importance of self-care. I always read the first one on the Caregiver Bill of Rights sheet to the caregiver to give insight and emphasize why self-care is so important.

“I have the right … To take care of myself. This is not an act of selfishness.  It will give me the capability of taking better care of my loved one.”

My favorite part of the one-on-one visit with is when I ask them to describe ways they relieve stress and what activities they enjoy. I have noticed a significant commonality with this question during one-on-one visits. More often than not, when I ask these two questions, there is a long pause in the conversation. I have come to the conclusion that many overtaxed caregivers will state they do not have time for themselves, or they cannot remember what they like to do because it has been so long since they have been able to anything for themselves.

I recently found myself in this same position, facing the same questions when attending a class. The instructor went around the room and asked everyone to share what they enjoy doing or how they relieve stress. My turn came around, and just like the caregivers I meet within my professional role, I found myself pausing for a long time, unable to readily come up with an answer.

Although my caregiving role as a mother of four children is different from the caregivers I meet with, I was able to understand and relate to this struggle. Life is busy, every moment the focus is on caring for your loved one, it is often very easy to forget to care for ourselves.

The importance of taking time for self-care can be compared to a vehicle. For your car to drive, you need gas. To keep your vehicle running efficiently, you need oil changes as well as other maintenance. Self-care is your own individual personal maintenance technique to maintain and improve not only your physical health but your mental health as well. Taking time for self-care will nourish your mind, body, and soul, and most importantly, it will allow you to take better care of your loved one.

If you find yourself overwhelmed or burnt out, just take a deep breath and think about what activities you used to indulge in before you became a caregiver. By engaging in a task or hobby that you enjoy, your stress levels automatically decrease.

Then to see how you can allocate time for yourself…
…Grab a pen and a piece of paper and try this:

  • If you had 5 minutes in a day just for you no caregiving, no housework, “What would you do?”
  • If you had 30 minutes in a day just for you no caregiving, no housework, “What would you do?”
  • If you had an hour, “What would you do?”
  • A whole day? “What would you do?”
Look at your weekly schedule and see where you can input even five minutes of a day to try and take time for you. It may be easier said than done, but once you start to practice self-care daily, it may become easier to see more clearly where you can allocate time for it.  Also, scheduling a one-on-one visit with a Caregiver Specialist can offer you support and provide resources to help you brainstorm ways to add time for self-care your day.

If you would like to see what other items are on the “Caregiver’s Bill of Rights” please click here to go to that page of our website.