Episode 84: Finding Your Caregiver Self-care Style: Part Three

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Do you really not have time to do things for yourself? Or is it because it isn’t important for you to do?

Listen to, or read, Episode 84 “Finding Your Caregiving Self-care Style: Part Three” and hear why I think it’s hard for you to do things for yourself (it might surprise you). You’ll also hear about two more self-care tools you can try to use and see if they will be a fit for you.

Show Notes

You don’t have the time to do things to care for yourself. There’s too much to do and you spend all of your time caring for your loved one. Self-care just isn’t for you.

I’ve had a lot of caregivers give me that as the reason why they can’t care for themselves.

Let’s talk about making yourself a priority.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve shown you how self-care is not only a requirement of every caregiver but also how it benefits the person you care for. Now you might be saying, there's just isn’t any time. However, I think if you’ve listened to that last two episodes you’ll see that self-care doesn’t mean you have to go anywhere and it also doesn’t have to take up a lot of time. It requires as much time as you will give yourself. That might be where the problem lies… making the time for yourself.

It is difficult for caregivers to “find time” to care for themselves because, let’s face it, no one really values what you do as much as they should. Society doesn’t value caregiving, business, and the government don't value it. Your social circles probably don’t and your family might want to but don’t really understand what you do.

You might not even understand what you do. You just know that at the end of doing it you are exhausted!

If your community, your social circles, and family don’t value your role and if you don’t fully understand the value of what you do every day it will be extremely difficult for you to make yourself a priority… unless you are ready to make yourself a priority.

As sad as it sounds… if you can’t make time for yourself no one else is really going to do it. They haven’t yet, have they?

If, when you became a caregiver, everyone at the doctors’ office flew into action to not only put together a care team for your loved one but also for yourself wouldn’t that have given you the message that you matter and they need you.

If when you became a caregiver, your family and friends all banded together and fed your household for months, or came in to manage the house and all of your needs so that you could focus on caregiving, would that have been a signal that they know you matter and are needed?

If you would have instantaneously been given time off from work or options to have a hybrid work schedule or better yet paid to be a caregiver to your loved one, would you have realized that they value what you do?

There are over 52 million caregivers in the United States. Every one of us provides care for a person that helps keep them alive in one way or another. What you do matters.

I know if we lived in a better world, not even a perfect world, it would be easier for you to step into your role as a caregiver. If you were able to do that it would be that much easier for you to take time off for yourself without needing to justify why or explain how or worry that someone would judge you.

But we don’t live in that world. So you have a choice. You can continue to fall apart under the stress of caregiving and struggle through life. Or you can wake up and realize how important caregiving is and understand how it is a requirement of that role to be able to show up for it every day as the best person you can be.

That can’t happen if you don’t take care of yourself. So if you say you don’t have time… I say that’s an excuse… not a reason. Everyone has a couple of minutes each day. I understand that can be upsetting to hear, but you know that’s true.

It’s a struggle for all of us to make ourselves a priority all the time. The difference is, for those of us who have figured out our worth and learned to care for ourselves as well as our loved one, we come back to it as quickly as possible because we know it is our duty. We owe it to ourselves just as much as to the people we live with. Caring for ourselves has to happen. You just have to find what works for you.

That’s why we have two last options to try. Over the past two episodes, I covered how to slow down, take a step away from the house, connect with other people and find comfort. Send me an email or post in the FB group and tell me if any of those worked for you or if you have any questions. The link to do that is on the website page for this episode.

Self-care tool #5 Thought

Have you ever heard the expression “You are what you think?” Or as Mark Twain wrote: “Life consists mainly of the storm of thoughts that is forever flowing through one's head.” Your perspective on life is forever created by how you think and the story you have of yourself. I find that the more stressed I am and the harder caregiving is for me the grumpier my thoughts get. Well they start out grumpy and then if left unchecked they grow into being irritated, to frustrated, to angry. As I get increasingly irritated, how I perceive things and how I respond or react to them reflects that. So if someone cuts me off while I’m driving I would respond with not even caring, on a good day, to fuming and reacting, on a day, when my thought process and mood are angry.

This is where meditation, prayer, and affirmations come into play. I get it if this isn’t your thing, but I’ll tell you that it is powerful and might be something you look into if you are interested. Meditation and prayer are ways for you to shift your mindset. If you’ve ever done it before, you might realize that it makes your breathing slower and deeper and you feel a sense of clarity and calm when you’re done. Taping into your spirituality can be a way you support yourself. Taking the time to meditate is the perfect way to start your day. I have a couple of meditations that I send out to people and if you’d like to try them out go to the show notes for this episode and I’ll have the links for them at the bottom.

Affirmations affect your mindset in a different way. If you are what you think, and meditation and prayer help you clear your mind, affirmations are how you change the ongoing message you always have in your head. Having one thing you say every morning that gives you strength or tells you that you can take on the day can be powerful and it is definitely better than waking up and telling yourself that this day is going to suck. Waking up and saying “I got this” sets you up with the potential to have a great day. Saying it’s going to be a bad day leaves no room for positivity.

The point here is, you have full control of what you think of and how you react to life. You might not feel like you do, but you do. I’m not asking you to wake up tomorrow and try to put a positive spin on everything. What I’m suggesting is if you normally wake up already hating the day before it begins consider being open to the possibility that it can be better than expected. You might find that you feel a little bit lighter and a little bit happier.

When you walk around feeling negative about everything you are giving your body a signal that things are wrong and it puts your nervous system in a chronic state of stress. Two episodes back we already established that chronic stress contributes to disease and that self-care’s goal is to protect your wellbeing. So trying to change your mindset is a good way to work towards finding positivity in your day.

Self Care Tool #6 Your Breath

Now moving on to the last tool for now…

How angry does it make you when someone tells you to just breathe. I feel it too sometimes, but what they are telling you comes from a place of truth.

Most of us breathe shallow breaths. Our chests move just a little. Stop and check for a quick second to see what your body is doing right now. Just short breaths, right. Maybe when we get angry or exert ourselves the shoulders will move up and down as well. These are called shallow breaths because you are hardly filling your lungs at all. This means you don’t bring in good amounts of oxygen.

Now, with a full deep breath you start to tell your body it can relax. The muscles and organs that move with that deep inhale signal to the body that it can turn off that fight or flight mode it’s usually stuck in, and turn on rest and digest which helps with blood flow throughout the body, slows the heart rate and releases tension.

Breathing is important for your health. Shallow breathing gives you subpar amounts of oxygen and deep breaths not only allow for a better blood/oxygen exchange but also have a positive effect on the nervous system.

If we are using the dictionary definition of self-care then deep breathing is a way to protect both your well-being and happiness.

The best way for me to explain breathing is to teach you. Here we go… Stop what you’re doing, if you can. If you’re driving or walking be careful and make sure to stay focused on staying safe.

First I want you to notice how you’re feeling right now. Are you stressed out, anxious, irritated? Are you having just an ok day with the possibility for it to go bad? Are you kinda happy? No need to judge what you’re feeling I just want you to notice.

I also want you to be real about your health. We all have to breathe to live but some of us have difficulty breathing, maybe it’s asthma or COPD, just know that you have to only do what feels comfortable. Also, a change in the way you breathe can cause anxiety. So take it slow and do what you can.

Now, Wherever you are, no matter if you are sitting or standing, pretend you’re a superhero. Imagine you are in that power pose with your shoulders rolled back a little and your chest puffed out a little. Go ahead and do it, no one is going to notice. You’ll probably feel like you grew maybe an inch because now you’re back is a little straighter.


Now I want you to think of a scent you like. Something you like the smell of. Maybe it’s warm cookies or Cinnamon. Maybe you like the smell of a specific flower or the soap your mom used to buy when you were little. Now I want you to imagine that thing is in the other room and you just realized you can smell it a little. You’re not sure they’re making cookies in the kitchen but you just got a whiff of something that makes you think they are. So you’re going to breathe a little bit deeper so you can smell it a little bit better. Breathe the scent in nice and slow. Maybe the magnolia trees or the lilac bushes are flowering and the window is open. Just far enough away that you really have to take a deep breath through your nose to smell it.

After you breathe in don’t force the air back out. Just let it out as calmly as you brought it in. Now do that a couple of more times. Just trying to smell that smell.

Now, if you can, I’d like for you to put one hand on your belly. Is it moving at least a little when you breathe in? If not, try to relax your stomach a little bit more. With your hand on your belly I want you to breathe as if you are trying to bring that smell as deep into your lungs as you can. You might start to feel your ribs move. Try to keep your shoulders relaxed. When you bring in a deep breath your belly opens out to make space for the breath. Ignore whatever love/hate relationship you have with your belly. If, when you breathe in you feel your belly wants to move… let it move. If you aren’t walking or driving and you feel like you want to close your eyes, then let them close.

Keep breathing… Deep breath in. Deep breath out.

Ok, you’ve been breathing for just a couple of minutes. I want you to check to see how you feel compared to how you felt before we started.

Do you feel any calmer?

You see… when you breathe deep breaths organs, tissue and muscles move inside your body. Your lungs and ribs move, you probably felt that. There is a muscle called the diaphragm that separates your lungs from your intestine and stomach. That moves when you breathe in deep and when you let your belly go it makes room for your lungs and your diaphragm to move down in the direction of your hips. When your diaphragm moves it runs along a nerve (called the vagus nerve) that runs up through your body and into your brain. This nerve is what controls your body’s ability to relax. It’s what switches your brain into that rest and digest and out of the fight or flight you are always in.

Deep breathing protects your well-being. Breathing in general is a requirement for staying alive. It’s something you take with you wherever you go. No one thinks twice about breathing so when you start to control it and use it as a tool it becomes powerful. You have it with you all the time and it’s always under your control. It doesn’t matter if you are waiting in a long line at the grocery store or sitting in your child’s oncologist's office you can use it to your benefit.

Self-care needs to be done with your health and happiness in mind. It can’t be something that drains energy from you or not be completely focused on what you need. You need to remember that it is essential for you to care for yourself. Caring for yourself or taking a break isn’t something that should make you feel guilty or ashamed of because it benefits the person you care for as well.

A healthier, happier you allows you to love your life as a caregiver. It just has to be important enough for you to do it.

You now have six different ways to care for yourself. All you need to do is find one that you like to do and will do all the time. This is how you begin to take care of yourself, just one moment at a time, one day at a time.

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