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5 Ways to Care For Yourself While Caring for Others

5 Ways to Care For Yourself While Caring for Others

Your new baby. Other children if you have them. Your partner. Friends. Family. They all need your care. You know who else needs you?  You!  Caring about yourself makes it easier and more fulfilling to care for others. Our Mommy's Bliss 360 expert, and Full Spectrum Doula, Sabia Wade has 5 amazing ways to turn this into less of a myth and more of a caring truth. Read on.  

Caregiving can be a gratifying experience. Being trusted to care for the people we love and want to be well can feel like a gift. There is another experience of caregiving that can be silently present because of the guilt we hold when expressing the difficulties of being a caregiver.

Are you feeling exhausted, worried, overwhelmed, and unable to care for yourself how you would like? You aren’t alone in this feeling, especially if you hold the role and complexities of being a caregiver. Parenting is one of the most recognized ways of caregiving. Still, many of us also care for older parents and family members while holding careers that require us to care for others, leaving us with minimal time and space to care for ourselves. This experience can feel isolating, but most of the United States is experiencing something very similar. Many people, especially women, provide unpaid care for others that requires so much time they may even need to leave their careers due to time conflicts. Of course, this impacts their financial well-being, as well as their mental and physical wellness, which leads to caregiver burnout.

Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion due to the long-term stress of caregiving. It’s important to acknowledge that symptoms can vary from person to person, and caregivers may have different levels of awareness around their level of burnout. Some caregivers may be very vocal about their exhaustion and need for more resources, but others, for many reasons, may present as if they are handling it all without issue. It’s important not to force our opinions, which may create additional stress, but to provide a supportive, open space for caregivers to experience a sense of safety and non-judgment.

The first step is understanding some of the symptoms of caregiver burnout to identify the need to provide support. Mental symptoms of caregiver burnout can include depression, anxiety, hopelessness, frustration, and feeling as if the caregiver doesn’t have control over their own life. Physical symptoms of caregiver burnout can include sleep problems, fatigue, headaches, body pain, changes in eating habits, and even a lowered immune system.

Can you recognize any of these symptoms within yourself? If so, take a deep breath and try to drop the shame or guilt by acknowledging that even as a caregiver, you are, first and foremost, a human who deserves care as well.

  1. Make a list of your needs and wants. It’s time to get some paper and do some good old writing. It may seem awkward or selfish, but this is the time to center yourself. Think about what you need to feel well as a caregiver. What schedule do you need to make sure you have enough time for yourself and adequate sleep? What support do you need from your community? Even think about what kind of food and forms of movement you need to replenish your body. If unsure, take a few minutes to do a body scan. Slowly close your eyes and pay attention to your body from head to toe, moving slowly down and lingering your consciousness at each body part, asking it what it needs. Lastly, think about what you want. What are the little “extras” that speak to your love language and make you feel cared for and appreciated? Let this list be as long as you need because it will serve as an anchor and a guide for yourself and your community members on how to care for yourself as you care for others.

  2. Boundary Setting. When looking at your list, do you notice any patterns that aren’t helpful to you? For example, maybe you realize you are saying yes to every request you make, and it’s causing exhaustion and less time to care for yourself. What boundaries can you set to give you more time and energy to care for yourself? To start, I would suggest carving out time each day that you reserve for self-care. This time could include meditation, napping, walking, dancing - anything that fills you and puts YOU at the top of your priority list.

  3. Resource Building. It’s time to review your list and determine what resources to gather to meet those needs. It may be helpful to bring in a loved one to help with this next step. For example, while writing out your list, maybe you realize you are making dinner seven days a week and would benefit from not making dinner on the weekend. Resources that can make that possible could include budgeting for take-out if possible, researching affordable meal plans, contacting meal delivery nonprofit organizations, creating an ongoing meal train, or asking your community members to rotate cooking a meal for your household weekly. Get creative about resource possibilities and research benefits available through health care plans and local community organizations!

  4. Express yourself. Now that you have done the work to clarify your needs and wants and the boundaries and resources that can support you in achieving those, it’s time for communication. This can look like inviting your community over and going over these factors with everyone, or for some; it can look like having individual conversations with your support team to share the ways you need support. This part of the process can cause anxiety, especially for caregivers, who are often seen as strong and expected to handle heavy loads - but remember, there is deep strength in vulnerability! Allowing your community to care for you is healthy and may also be exciting for them! Often, people want to support the caregivers but don’t know how, so it can be helpful to communicate it in the identified categories.

  5. Celebrate yourself. This process can provide so much clarity for yourself and your community by first identifying the gaps that need filling and some possible resources to fill those gaps. Although helpful, this process can also bring up many feelings and make us aware of our vulnerabilities and limitations. Take time to celebrate yourself for moving through this process and make this a regular part of your routine! This celebration can include taking a bath, practicing a hobby you love, making your favorite meal, or just starting to practice saying NO.

This site is intended for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice. Please consult your physician or other health-care professional.

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