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.
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. Here's the hard truth: 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 helps you 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.
The dangers of caregiver burnout
It is vital for you 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:
- 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 (like smoking or excessive drinking) to cope with stress
- Losing your enjoyment of life.
Taking care of yourself doesn’t require a long vacation or a day at the spa. There are many options - and opportunities - for simple and quick self-care. Many are low or no cost options and only take a few minutes to do. When you build mini-moments into your day, you will reduce fatigue and the possibility of burnout.
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.
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 from your emotional reserves.
Quick ideas for mental and emotional self-care include activities like these.
- 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.
2. Being present for 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.
Here are some quick ideas for being present in daily moments:
- Put your mind in the present by naming 5 blue things you can see (or any color!).
- 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 them.
- 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 your mood after a tiring day!
These are some quick ideas for looking after your home environment.
- Make your bed before you start your day.
- Take 5 minutes to de-clutter one very small area.
- Play some relaxing music.
- Put up a string of twinkling lights to brighten your space.