How to Practice Self-Care as a Caregiver
Caregivers have one of the noblest jobs, but also one of the most difficult. Providing physical, mental, and emotional support to another person, and establishing a good, trusting relationship can take an immense toll on the caregiver’s health.
While taking care of their client is a priority for every caregiver, it is also crucial to take some time for self-care. Taking the time to satisfy your own needs will prevent burnout and help you do your job better.
What Is Self-Care?
What does self-care mean to you? We've all heard of it. It’s usually said in the same breath with phrases like, learn to say no, me time, or you deserve it. You may be imagining candles around the edge of a bathtub filled with bubbles or a day on the couch watching old movies, or maybe your favorite comfort food.
Self-care means different things to different people. There is no single definition or perfect formula for achieving it.
Self-care should not be confused with pampering yourself or allowing yourself to indulge. While there is a time and place for pampering and indulging, self-care is much more than that and requires a little discipline to feel the benefits.
Self-care is a way of living. It is the art of consciously choosing behaviors that promote well-being, renew energy and motivation, and that help you grow as an individual.
What Are the Aspects of Wellness?
It's important to look at wellness as more than just physical health, to see the multiple dimensions that contribute to one's health. You need to do more than just engage in physical activity to lead a healthy life. There are seven dimensions that encompass a healthy lifestyle. Finding a balance between these is the goal.
Physical wellness means taking care of your body. For optimal body health, you need adequate sleep and diet, as well as regular exercise.
Go back to the basics of proper nutrition - eat healthy and balanced meals, instead of processed foods.
Exercise regularly, or try to move your body as much as you can. Studies consistently show how exercise can help both your physical and your mental health. It can lower your risk for cardio-vascular disease, depression, diabetes, and a range of other illnesses, among many other benefits.
Getting enough good sleep can be much harder to achieve than we think. Good sleeping habits can improve your mood, focus, and energy levels.
Emotional wellness has to do with your thoughts and feelings and how you handle them. To be emotionally well mean that a person is aware of and can accept, express, and manage their feelings rather than deny or ignore them. In general, this can help create a more optimistic outlook on life and can make it easier to adjust to change.
Knowing you can handle your emotions in a healthy way can improve your response to stress and make it easier to enjoy life, even through frustrating and difficult times.
An emotionally well person lives in the present, has worked through pain and hardship from the past, and looks forward to and plans realistically for the future.
To be emotionally well does not mean that you don't have problems or feel happy all of the time. It simply means that you have found effective ways to work through problems or are involved in finding those ways.
There are many ways to work on emotional wellness, but a couple of common examples include counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy or support groups.
All of these methods are designed to help understand emotions, where they come from, and how to handle them in healthy ways, either alone or in a group setting.
Intellectual wellness is like exercise for your brain. The phrase, “use it or lose it”, is not only for the body, but also for the brain.
This dimension of wellness encourages creative and stimulating mental activities. The goal is to spark interest in new ideas, information, and ways of learning. Curiosity is a great motivator, building excitement and dedication to digging deeper into the topic.
Choosing new activities and focusing on learning new things builds new connections in your brain, which keeps your mind healthy and sharp.
There are many ways to do this! Local libraries are free and have plenty of resources on any topic. You can take a class online or in person, read a new book, learn a new language, practice a musical instrument, or participate in arts events.
If you are looking to decrease screen time, you can try games like Scrabble, chess, crossword puzzles, or other logic or strategy games.
If you pick up a new hobby, craft, or activity, remember that the purpose is to work your brain in new ways and feel creative and excited, so feel free to experiment with different activities to find what you like.
Spiritual wellness is a very personal matter and expression of it varies as much as each individual human does. It's about sorting out values and beliefs that provide purpose in your life. People define this in different ways based on their background, culture, and perspective.
Searching for meaning and purpose in life is a big task, and there are many different ways to approach and practice spirituality. Some individual examples include prayer, meditation, affirmations, or taking a walk in nature.
Spiritual practice helps you feel connected to your belief system and/or higher power. Some people find this through organized religion and participating in group ceremonies, others may find this on their own through solitary activities, and others choose both.
The best way to reach spiritual wellness is by doing activities that bring a sense of connection and purpose and it’s essential to try different activities to find the best fit for you. This can help with caregiving especially, to find new and deeper ways to connect with your clients.
Spiritual wellness is an important part of overall wellness because it can help provide a different perspective on difficult situations. Remembering your values and the purpose behind what you can help make it easier to let go of minor frustrations and be more compassionate with yourself and others.
Occupational wellness involves the satisfaction you get out of your chosen career path.
Does it fulfill you?
Are you able to use your own unique set of talents and skills in ways that are meaningful to you?
Do you feel rewarded by the work that you actually accomplish and not just by the paycheck?
These are really important questions because statistically, folks are not necessarily happier when they make more money. One person's dream career may be someone else's nightmare.
People who are happy in their jobs enjoy the work they do, or they are on the path to work that will fulfill them. This means they are already doing work that is meaningful to them, or they are working toward that end goal.
It's important to understand that occupational wellness is not about the actual work that you do, but rather it's about how you feel about that work and how it fits in with your values, future plans and goals.
Social wellness is the ability to form and keep loving and supportive relationships with people through life. It involves creating strong social connections, respecting yourself and others, and developing a solid social support system.
The simple fact is that having friends and spending time with friends is good for you. It's a very important part of overall wellness. The opposite of social wellness is social isolation.
Being isolated or feeling lonely can lead to anxiety, depression, and increase in stress levels. Isolation can also weaken the immune system over time, which can increase risk of other diseases and illnesses.
Your level of social wellness does not depend on the actual number of friends you may have. What matters is the quality of those relationships. Some people are more outgoing and enjoy spending time with many different friends, while others are more quiet or shy and prefer just a few close friends.
Social wellness is more about feeling supported and connected to other people within your comfort level. Good friendships are built on trust, understanding and caring for each other. Having a solid foundation in social wellness can then improve other relationships in your life, including your clients!
What is financial wellness? Like the other forms of wellness, it can mean different things for different people. It’s common to think that financial wellness comes from gaining as much wealth as you can, but the basic idea comes down to defining what is important to you and learning how to find happiness within your means.
In order to live a satisfying life, you need to be somewhat comfortable with your financial circumstances. If you are not able to do this, you can take steps to improve these circumstances so that you can have what you need to support yourself and your goals.
This can involve further career training, or simply working to understand how to set up a budget for yourself and stick to it. You don't need to be rich to be happy, but if you are happy with your own unique financial situation, then your life will be rich and satisfying in the way that works best for you.
It’s important to develop all of these parts of your life in your own way to feel satisfied and happy. When your only focus every day is your job and the tasks you do, it can make you feel disconnected or out of balance.
When work takes over your life and you feel overwhelmed, it’s a good time to step back and reflect. Consider these different areas of your life and take the steps to make improvements where you can.
This is what self-care is all about, and doing this work helps both you and the people around you to feel happy and fulfilled.
Learn more about how to take care of yourself and your mental health by taking our course, specially designed for that purpose. Explore CE323 | Self-Care and the Caregiver.