Episode 82: Finding Your Caregiving Self-care Style: Part One
I bet your idea of self-care is flawed.
Listen to Episode 82 “Finding Your Caregiving Self Care Style: Part One” to find out if it is and learn two ways you can bring self-care into your day.
If you have listened to any of my episodes that focus on self-care you know that I believe it is required of all caregivers to care for themselves. When I asked caregivers what they needed the most, the answer I got was - learn how to care for themselves. So for the next few episodes, we are going to do just that.
Let’s talk about ways caregivers can support themselves.
I get it.. you might be skeptical right now but give me just 10 minutes of your time. Don’t worry about writing anything down if you are driving or on a walk. All of this information is on the website so you can always reference that to find everything I talk about on this episode today.
Self Care is Essential
Self-care is essential for caregivers. If you listened to episodes 13 and episode 43 you know that I feel it is a requirement. Not only is it essential for your own health it also allows you to be the best caregiver you can be. It allows you to release the stress that builds up every day, allows you to become resilient so you find yourself feeling overwhelmed less often and it allows you to love your life while caregiving. There is scientific data that proves chronic stress is linked to Cardiovascular disease, depression and anxiety, and a weakened immune system. Doing things that keep you from chronic stress is essential for keeping you healthy.
What is self-care?
There are three problems that caregivers have when addressing self-care.
1. They don’t feel that self-care is for people like them.
2. They don’t have any time to do anything for themselves.
3. They don’t know what they would do even if they wanted to.
My answer to those objections are
- We need to work on your definition of self-care
- The problem isn’t not having the time it’s in how you prioritize your day.
- Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated.
Definition of self-care
Let’s start with the actual definition of self-care. According to the dictionary self-care is:
The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one's own health.
The practice of taking an active role in protecting one's own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.
Nowhere in this definition do I see any specific events or activities listed. If we use this definition of self-care then it is open to interpretation. It is anything that you could do to protect your own well-being and happiness.
The problem is that companies have decided to tell you what self-care should look like. Social media accounts promote what they want you to think self-care is. It can feel like the world is trying to tell you that you need self-care and the thing they are selling or the place they are promoting is the answer and almost always the person they use for their messaging is a young, healthy person wearing beautiful expensive clothing or hardly anything at all.
You don’t see yourself in that messaging. That is why I meet so many caregivers that tell me self-care isn’t for them. I get that. If you think self-care is what you buy for yourself or what you go to do it’s going to feel out of reach for you.
Now, I’m not saying that taking a trip, getting a massage, or buying that expensive cream aren’t good ways to release caregiver stress but most of those things are not daily forms of self-care. I’d consider them the extra things you do if you can.
The problem is, you can’t sell the act of doing nothing. It isn’t glamorous but for some people taking a moment to sit and do absolutely nothing is their form of self-care.
The other problem is, no one reaches out to help you learn what self-care means for you. You know you should be caring for yourself because people are always telling you that you should do it… usually when you are at a breaking point. Which is extremely unhelpful. Everyone telling you to take care of yourself but no one to give you ideas of what to do! Keep listening because we are going to get to that.
You are the only person that can determine what self-care is for you. No matter what it is, the focus of it should be protecting your own well-being and happiness. Protecting your well-being means protecting your health. For caregivers, one of the most important things that need to be done is to find ways to deal with the stress of caregiving. I am going to give you options over the next three episodes for you to consider so you can find one thing that can be brought into your life consistently.
Time for self-care
Self-care needs to be a part of your daily life. It needs to become what you do every day, like going to the bathroom or brushing your teeth. It has to be non-negotiable. That means it has to be something you will actually do. I can spend hours talking to you about the benefits of meditation but if you don’t believe you’d find that enjoyable it’ll never work for you.
You have to believe in yourself care and it needs to be as big or as small and you think it should be. However, if you tell me there is absolutely no time for you to do anything for yourself what I hear is you don’t think you are worthy of being a priority. Some of the things that I am going to suggest you consider taking less than 5 minutes. You have that much time. It can take more than 5 minutes to find something to watch on Netflix and you probably spend more than 5 minutes a day on social media.
Self-care is what you actively do to protect your own well-being and happiness and it can take as much or as little time out of your day but it needs to happen daily. I am positive you can do this.
Let’s look at two self-care options and see if any of them are things you would consider doing.
Finding your self-care tool
Self-care tool #1 - Stop
It’s as simple as that… just stop and do absolutely nothing. Stop for a couple of minutes, no phone, no book, don’t add to your to-do list. Just stop. Stop doing, stop talking, stop trying to fix things. Stop and sit or simply lie down on the floor. Get to that place you are driving to, park, and stop. Turn off the radio and lean that seat back for a minute.
We spend so much of our time doing. Take a minute to not do that. Just stop. Don’t get ready to stop. Don’t cue up something on the radio so you can stop. JUST STOP. Turn everything off. Just don’t do anything.
Just be. Let your thoughts float by. Don’t try to change them or fix them. Don’t try to stuff the ones down that see this as an opportunity to come up. There’s nothing to analyze right now. Just stop and do nothing.
I know I’m repeating myself because this is by far, the easiest thing for you to do, and most of you will not end up even trying it!
You don’t have any time for yourself? Just stop. Take a seat. Just a minute. You have a minute. Self-care isn’t for you? Just lie down on the floor or sit in your car and recline the seat when you get to the grocery store.
Everyone can take a break for a minute. Just a minute of doing nothing. No special breathing (although this would be a great time for that). No meditation. No assessing your emotions. Just stop doing!
Give your brain a chance to catch up with you. Let your nervous system have a moment when it doesn’t feel like it’s under attack.
Self-care tool #2 - Walk/Get outside
The next tool I would suggest trying is having a specific time of the day when you get out of the house. I know some of you are already thinking you don’t have time for that or you can’t do that because of the person you care for needs you around all the time. Even more of a reason to really listen to this one if that is the case.
Oftentimes a caregiver's house can feel oppressive. Have you ever felt claustrophobic in your house because you’ve been in it for too long? Maybe you aren’t confined to the house by your responsibilities but when you do leave it, is to do something specific and not to do something for yourself.
Getting out of your house is a very good self-care tool. It shifts your focus to something other than what you were probably hyper-focused on at home. If there is a lot of stress in your life, getting out of the house can give you a break from that. It can be the distraction you need before making a big decision or having that conversation you don’t really want to have.
Getting out of the house can be a reset for you. It can remind you that you are part of a community. You have a chance to see other human beings and notice birds, the smell of the air, and the sounds of the world you live in. Have you ever left your house and noticed how everything feels different? All the things your mind was trying to fix, figure out and formulate move off to the side and you might feel a little bit more clear-headed. Or maybe you’re just tired of hearing the same show on tv with the volume up 100% higher than it needs to. Before you pick up that bat and destroy the tv simply get out of the house.
That’s the why, here’s the how.
5 min version Let’s say you feel you can’t really leave. If you really think this is something you’d like to do I would suggest seeing if there aren’t 5 minutes in your day where things would be ok if you weren’t there. If not, ask yourself if it is because your loved one needs you or you are scared to leave? Not in an effort to judge but to understand why you feel you can’t leave. If you do find 5 minutes you might not be needed then try being out of the house for two minutes. Just step out the door and walk in one direction for one minute and then turn around. As you feel more comfortable you can try going out for longer. If you can’t get away for that long the option for you would be to open the front door of your house and focus on what is outside. Stand there. Maybe you do this when you grab your coffee in the morning, or while you are waiting for lunch or dinner to finish. Find a time you would be by the door every day and see if you can take a minute to stand there and notice what is right outside. You can always do this with a window instead.
10 min version Get out and take a walk. It doesn’t need to be fast. You don’t have to wear workout clothes to do it. Just get out and walk away from the house for 5 minutes and then turn around. Can the walk be longer or shorter? Of course. Also, take into mind the safety of your surroundings, the weather, and please don’t wear all black if you’re going out in the dark. Ask yourself after the first time if you enjoyed it and could you do it every day? Be honest with yourself. If not every day then maybe a couple of times a week or a month but that would mean this isn’t the thing you do daily for yourself.
Maybe you find out you feel free when you go out for a short walk. Maybe this is the time you get to think through things. A time for you to be alone. Maybe even a time to listen to a short podcast or music. This short break could end up being something you get excited about every day but you won’t know if you don’t try it.
30 min version This might be something you don’t do every day but it’s worth mentioning because I know it feels good to do. Take a drive or take a long walk somewhere. Maybe you drive to a park or a place that has a scenic view and you just sit there for a couple of minutes. My favorite is to drive to grab some coffee. I turn my favorite music up loud in the car and I sing as loudly as I want. Or if classical music is your jam I’m with ya. Make this all about you and not about any chores or errands you need to do.
Longer Of course you can do any of these things for longer periods of time. What we’re focussing on here is a daily activity you can integrate into your day. Keep that in mind. If there are things you would love to try but you know you wouldn’t do every day by all means make a note of it and do it when you can.
We are just working on slowing down with the options I am giving you today. Both of these forms of self-care are free. You don’t need anything to do them. In fact, the first one is about doing absolutely nothing. While doing nothing for a couple of minutes or sticking your head out of the door may seem inconsequential I challenge you to try them.
For those of us who feel like we always need to be doing something to prove our worth, stopping is the best thing to do. It helps you catch up with how you are feeling and gives you the opportunity to see if there are things that you need to do for yourself that you’ve been too busy to notice. Slowing down allows your nervous system to take a break. Feeling that constant underlying stress and anxiety is not sustainable long term but you probably already know that.
I know it’s difficult to do things for yourself. Even thinking about taking some time for your own self-care can be uncomfortable. Next week I am going to share two more ways you can bring self-care into your day and why your self-care is important for the person you care for.
For now, take a moment to think through how this isn’t about you being selfish. Caring for yourself is about keeping you healthy, mentally and physically. It doesn’t require you to buy or go anywhere if you don’t want to. You just have to find the thing that will work for you and that you will do every day.
Try just stopping. Maybe after listening to this you turn it off and sit in silence for a moment or maybe you go for a walk or stand outside for a bit.
Experience these two things and see if it is possible for you to do and if it is something you’d actually do. Then next week there will be a new set of two things to try.
If you want any feedback or have questions feel free to send me an email or ask in the FB group. These links are in the show notes at www.loveyourcaregivinglife.com
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