It’s no secret that family caregivers have a lot on their plate. They’re looking after family, children, and if there’s time, themselves. But, too often, caregivers will focus so much on caring for others that they put their own health and wellness on the back burner.
While this seems honorable, it is neither healthy nor sustainable. After all, there’s a reason the airlines tell you to put on your own oxygen mask first—you can only help others after you’ve helped yourself.
Many caregiver articles and resources include self-care as one of the ways to help yourself first. This is undoubtedly great advice, but many caregivers struggle to understand how to incorporate it into their busy lives. Self-care is often advertised as taking a bubble bath or going on a walk, and these are great examples of self-care, but there is much more to it than relaxing in a face mask.
Franklin Park® Senior Living knows the importance of caring for yourself, wherever you are in the caregiving journey. We’re sharing some self-care tips that you can use for any situation you find yourself and your family in.
Self-Care Tips For…
When You Feel Like You’re in a Rut
Having a routine is valuable when caring for an older adult, especially if they have dementia. An established structure can help reduce agitation and allow caregivers to provide better and more prepared care. The downside of this, though, is that the days can start to feel the same, and you may lose motivation and excitement.
To counter this, try doing something new or different every day. This could be as involved as planning a fun activity to do with your family member or as simple as taking a new route to your house. Other ideas include calling a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while, signing up for a class, or ordering a coffee drink other than your usual.
When You Feel Lonely
Even though you spend a lot of time with your family member, caregiving can be an isolating experience. Caring for a parent or family member can cause your other relationships to fall by the wayside, which can lead to other concerns as well.
When you’re feeling lonely, it’s essential to be intentional about maintaining your relationships, whether that’s establishing a date night once a month, asking a neighbor for support while you get dinner with an old friend, or even inviting a friend to spend time with you and your loved one.
When You Just Moved Your Parent into Senior Living
If you and your family have decided that your loved one should move into a senior living community, you might be feeling a mixture of emotions. You might be happy and relieved that they will be getting the care they need, and you have some of your time back. But, you also might feel sad or lonely about the change.
The transition into a senior living community can certainly be bittersweet, so be kind and take some time for yourself. This would be the time to go on that walk, take that bubble bath, or watch a funny movie. If you’re able, maybe even travel for a few days to enjoy your free time. And of course, you will still always be in your parent’s life, so it’s important to keep that in mind, too.
When You Feel Too Overwhelmed and Busy
Sometimes caregiving, in addition to all of life’s other responsibilities, can expend all your time and energy to the point where even taking a night off seems like a dream. In these cases, self-care becomes even more crucial, as it can be the only thing between you and caregiver burnout.
If you feel like you don’t have time to go on a date or a walk, try these simple self-care tips that you can do anytime, anywhere:
- Take a deep breath. You’d be surprised at how much one single breath can change things.
- Drink a glass of water or eat a nourishing snack.
- Do a five-minute guided meditation.
- Watch a funny video on YouTube.
- Do one minute of jumping jacks, squats, or lunges.
- Think of or write down five things you are thankful for at that moment.
These may not seem like much, but taking some time—even if it’s just five minutes—can help you reset and rejuvenate.
Tips to Make the Most of Your Self-Care Activities
It can be difficult to truly unwind and relax when you constantly have so much on your mind. Try these tips to ensure you’re getting the most out of self-care.
- Mark your self-care activities on your calendar. This can help you feel like it’s an appointment that cannot be missed instead of an optional activity.
- While doing your self-care activity, turn off your phone or give it to someone else. For peace of mind, give your parent or family member a friend or spouse’s phone number that they can call in case of an emergency.
- Follow basic self-care practices: get enough sleep, eat well, exercise daily, and visit your doctor regularly.
Self-Care is Not Selfish
For someone used to caring for others and putting themselves last, self-care can be a challenging concept to grasp. It can feel selfish to take time for yourself when other things need to be done. Ultimately, though, self-care is essential in taking care of yourself, as well as those in your care. Taking time to relax, connect with others, and focus on wellness can make you a better caregiver and a better person.
Franklin Park® offers senior living services throughout San Antonio, Texas. We admire all family caregivers and want to let you know that you are not alone. Visit our website for more information on our senior care options and resources on caregiving and caregiver wellness.