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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Howard

A Caregiver's Guide to Self Care

Updated: Jul 6, 2021

Your caregiving responsibilities have no doubt changed and increased during the prolonged pandemic with greater demands from loved ones on all fronts (and from all ages). You may have brought a loved one home (from an assisted living or nursing facility) to live with you as a means of ensuring their safety.

Or you may be living the painful experience of not being allowed to visit with your loved one. Even if your care receiver lives independently, your role as their primary support has expanded.

As the situation drags out, you’re feeling pressured on all fronts.

Even when you’re not actively caregiving, it makes good sense to be aware of where things stand with your own self-care, but of course when you’re caregiving, it becomes all that much more critical!

The situation with COVID has only intensified the need to proactively take action to protect your health and well-being. Yet when pressures build, shortcuts are attractive and it’s natural for things to slip on the self-care front. Important things, like getting enough sleep!

Like eating healthily, or taking a short walk in nature. In truth, finding your own personal “best” self-care formula is a lifelong proposition with the goal being to evolve over time a self-care approach that works naturally with your lifestyle.

Many caregivers lament their lack of time as the reason for neglecting their self-care. But studies show that even as little as five minutes a day can help restore a sense of calm and balance to your demanding life as a caregiver.

As the old saying goes: “You can’t pour from an empty cup!”

Three keys to success in my work with caregivers.

I lead month-long challenges in which we explore different avenues of self-care. We’ve learned that self-care improvements move forward best when you:

  • Make a commitment and set your intention

  • Choose some easy (yet effective) ways to show yourself you care

  • Anchor and layer your self-care actions

Make a commitment and set your intention.

There’s a great benefit to selecting a set time period and really going for it. It gives you a chance to experiment with some new ways of being and doing and even to establish some lifelong habits.

Choose some easy (yet effective) ways to show yourself you care.

Even easy to do self-care actions can have a big impact on the quality of your daily life like drinking warm lemon water every morning, drifting off to sleep to a favorite diffused essential oil, or stepping outside for a short walk.

Anchoring and layering.

These are simple strategies that can be extremely effective in helping you establish new self-care habits and make them effortless over time. For example, anchor a NEW self-care action to an EXISTING action (i.e., add relaxing background music while your brush your teeth). You can also layer your self-care actions to get double-duty out of them (i.e., for example, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to your body lotion).

One thing is for sure: Nurturing your own best way forward with your self-care is a very personal and individualized endeavor, and it takes time and experimentation, even on a good day!

Start personalizing your own self-care formula by thinking through the five areas of self-care (i.e., adequate sleep, nourishment and hydration,body movement, enlightening inputs, and time for yourself).

Once you’ve identified which areas could use improvement, have some fun finding new ways to care for yourself despite having a shortage of time!Start with easy-to-achieve actions you can anchor to and layer in with habits you already have.

Following are some self-care actions that can easily be added to other daily habits for very little time and money.

10 easy self-care actions for Caregivers

  1. Start your day with a cup of lemon water

  2. Give yourself 30 mins upon waking (no digital) to have some quiet meditative time for yourself to set the stage for your day, while sipping on your coffee or tea

  3. Make your favorite smoothie for breakfast

  4. Take a 15-minute walk outside

  5. Have a cup of green tea

  6. Visit with a close friend via Zoom

  7. Drink an extra glass of water in the morning, and again in the evening

  8. Give your shower time a spa-like therapeutic effect by adding a few drops of essential oil (lavender for relaxing, peppermint for rejuvenating)

  9. Slather on body lotion after your bath/ shower

  10. Listen to an audio relaxation exercise as you drift off to sleep

With self-care, the point is to nurture your body, mind, and spirit so you can pro-actively bolster your immune system and prevent health and other problems before they can take root. Maintaining your own balance while caregiving is not only good for your care receiver, it’s an important part of ensuring your future physical, mental and financial health.

The prolonged pandemic has further heightened the need for finding a self-care formula that works for you and your specific situation. Get started today with exploring your own best unique self-care formula!

Following are five steps to help you get started with self-care.

  1. Request your free: One-page self-assessment questionnaire, a list of 31 easy self-care ideas

  2. Second ...Do the quick self-assessment of how you’re doing in each of the five basic self-care areas:-Adequate sleep-Good nutrition and hydration-Regular body movement-Enlightening inputs-Time for yourself

  3. Third ...Zero in on the ONE area where you feel you could use improvement.

  4. Fourth ...List up one thing you could do every day that would get you one step closer to your goal.

  5. Fifth ...Take that one small action every day -until it becomes a regular habit for you,just like brushing your teeth!

Remember: it’s never too late to start!


About the Author:

Debbie Howard

Author, Speaker, Founder

Debbie Howard is a former caregiver who served as both long distance and live-in caregiver during her Mom’s dying days in South Carolina, while running her Tokyo-based market research consultancy.

With the launch of AMI and in 2016, Debbie combined her caregiving experience with her 40 years as a communications and market research pro to support caregivers in navigating their caregiving journeys with more grace and ease. especially when it comes to self-care.

Today, she leads workshops and blogs on this topic, and helps companies develop programs to support their employees in balancing their caregiving responsibilities at home with their work.

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