I’ve often pondered how easy it seems to be kind to one another and how that is a primary lesson we are taught from an early age. It’s interesting that, at least as I was growing up, I was never taught about the importance of being kind to myself. Most of the time, I am very critical of my own actions. I find myself dwelling on things I’ve said or done and I critique them until I am exhausted. In my conversations with caregivers, I’ve come to realize that many struggle with their own constant self-critiques as well so I’ve put together a few ideas to help caregivers practice being kind to themselves.
Take Time for Yourself
Even if it’s just for 5 minutes. Take a quick walk around the house or do a few stretches. Color in a coloring book. Anything you want to do is fine, just make sure to take a few moments of each day to step away from all of your duties for a moment and take a deep breath!
We’ve all heard it a million times but it’s worth repeating – no one is perfect. Sometimes you’re going to wake up in the morning and you’ll struggle to get out of bed, you won’t feel up to accomplishing all or any of your caregiving duties. And that’s okay! Maybe you’ll experience feelings of irritation, exhaustion, or annoyance toward your loved one. That’s okay too! Forgive yourself. You’re human after all and those feelings are all completely normal. Don’t dwell on those moments or make yourself feel guilty. You’re doing a beautiful job!
Take Care of Yourself
You’re a caregiver and often that means you think of yourself last. I understand that – it’s easier to jump right in and deal with all of those other tasks first. Often times though, caregivers are too tired after all of those tasks have been completed to take care of themselves so try to remember that you can’t take care of your loved one if you’re not taking care of yourself. Make sure to eat regular (and healthy!) meals and make sure you rest regularly and get enough sleep at night!
Now I know I recommended eating healthy earlier but if you want a cookie, eat one! There’s never anything wrong with treating yourself. Take a few minutes each day (or at the very least, each week) to treat yourself with whatever you want. You work hard and you definitely deserve it!
I know it sounds silly but on the hardest of days try to look at yourself in the mirror and compliment yourself. Find the good, positive thing you did today even if you feel like you may have done everything else wrong and brag on yourself for a moment! You’ll probably feel a little silly the first time or two but, I promise, it will help!
This is something that you can do anywhere, at any time. There are many variations of how to practice mindfulness but the main goal is to relax yourself and exist in that very moment without worrying about anything else! So, what does that look like? First, pause for a moment and really focus in on your breathing. You breathe in and you breathe out, just focus on regular breathing. Next, think positive thoughts about yourself such as “I am a great caregiver,” “I am good at caring for others,” “I am good at knitting.” Anything works as long as it is positive. Just take a moment to live in that exact moment and relax. This practice can be particularly helpful if your loved one is in the hospital or if you’re on the go to doctor’s appointments with your loved one or even if you’re spending the day with your loved one at home. Just give it a try!
By: Mattie Steele, Family House Support Services Intern
Mattie is excited to be completing her social work internship at the Family House. She will be working in the Support Services department with Lindley. Mattie is getting her Master’s in Social Work from UNC Chapel Hill. She has just moved to the Winston-Salem area and is originally from Wilkes County, NC. Mattie enjoys reading, spending time with her husband, Panther’s football, and dogs of any kind. She loves talking with and listening to people so feel free to say hello!