If you are the caregiver of a loved one living with a mental health condition, it’s likely that your own self-care gets neglected. You may have subconsciously gotten into a habit of forgetting to prioritize your own needs. Or you believe you simply do not have enough time to spend on “just for you” activities because of work and family demands. No matter how busy you are, it will not pay off to neglect yourself and your needs.
Caring for your own mental and physical health is important for you as a person and so you can stay resilient for your family. Here we describe what self-care is, why it is important, and how you can integrate simple and quick practices into your daily life to look after your well-being as a caregiver.
What is Self-Care?
Self-care is an intentional act of giving back to yourself so you can strengthen or maintain your overall wellness. It can be a fun activity you enjoy, looking after your physical needs, or anything that gives you a sense of satisfaction.
The Dangers of Caregiver Burnout
Now more than ever, it is vital to make self-care a priority. When you don’t take the time to nourish your own physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being, you run the risk of experiencing caregiver burnout — a state of being completely overwhelmed by the stress and fatigue associated with caring for your loved one.
Caregiver burnout can lead to many negative outcomes like these:
- Mental health issues including anxiety, depression, or chronic stress
- Physical health problems like fatigue, sleep issues, or drastic changes in appetite
- Changes in mood with increased irritability, apathy, or anger toward the person you’re caring for
- Engaging in unhealthy or harmful lifestyle choices (e.g., smoking or excessive drinking) to cope with stress
- Finding little enjoyment in life.
Mini Self-Care Moments
Taking care of yourself doesn’t require a long vacation or a day at a spa. There are many options for simple and quick self-care. Many are minimal or no cost, and only take a few minutes of your time. If you build them into your days, you will find there is great power in the repetition of tiny acts of self-care.
We reached out to FFDA followers, our Clinical Advisory Board, volunteers, staff, interns, friends, and family to build this list of quick and free self-care activities you can weave into your daily life.
Let us know which ones work for you and if you have more to add to our list!
1. Simple Mental and Emotional Care
Taking care of your mind and heart is a core part of maintaining your well-being. Caring for others can draw a lot on your emotional reserves.
Quick ideas for mental and emotional self-care include:
- Write down 3 things you are thankful for each day
- Set a timer and do a midday check-in with yourself: How do I feel? What do I need?
- Close your eyes and imagine a relaxing place that brings you peace
- Give yourself credit with self-affirmation: name something positive about yourself or something you have done that gave you a sense of accomplishment or satisfaction
- Put your mind in the present by naming 5 blue things you can see (or any color!)
2. Be Present for the Daily Moments
We can get so caught up with the stress of caregiving that we often forget to stop and enjoy the simple daily moments.
Quick ideas for being present in the daily moments:
- Allow yourself to finish your morning drink (tea, coffee, water, etc.) without distractions
- Take a moment to enjoy the sunrise or sunset
- Mindfully enjoy your meals – experience the wonderful tastes, textures, aromas, appearance, and sounds – instead of rushing through it
- Take 10 mindful deep belly breaths
3. Take Care of Your Home Environment
Your home is your personal space of comfort and safety. It also deserves some care. A relaxing, clutter-free home can do wonders for lightening the mood after a tiring day!
Quick ideas for looking after your home environment include:
- Take 5 minutes to tidy your home, or pick one very small area to fully de-clutter
- Play some relaxing music
- Make your bed before you start your day
- Put up a string of white or colored lights to brighten your space
Small Acts of Self-Care Can Have a Big Impact
Building moments of self-care into your days and weeks is good for more than your personal well-being. It gives you the chance to recharge and be a better caregiver for your loved one and reduces the risk of caregiver burnout. By taking care of yourself, you are in a better position to take care of others.
- Do you know how much stress you are holding? Take our quick Caregiver Stress Test and you will be matched with self-care strategies to support your level of stress.
- Feeling stressed? Learn more ways to create mini moments of self-care in your everyday life in this 60-minute video. Subscribe to our YouTube channel if you want to receive more resources like this!
- Caregivers deserve help, too! Watch our Asking for Help video we created with NextGoodThing.
- Looking for more ideas on self-care? Read our blog on Boring But Necessary- Caregiver Self-Care.