As a caregiver, you are probably spending a majority of your time tending to the needs of your loved one, which means you may not have been having many chances to take time off for your own needs. While it may feel difficult, almost impossible, to set aside time and space simply for yourself, your needs remain no less important. Here are some ideas about how you can care for yourself while you’re caring for your loved one.
Having others to talk to who understand the burdens you are carrying can make a real difference. Look for support or therapy groups where you can share what you’re experiencing and get support and empathy. These groups may also be able to connect you with resources to help you, so you are less burdened and can make more time for your own needs. Even if you can’t find an in-person group, or manage the time to get to one, you may be able to find online groups.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of forest bathing, it might sound strange to you – but, basically, the idea is to immerse yourself and all five senses in the world of the forest. Also sometimes called forest therapy, the practice originated in Japan, and can involve nothing more complicated than simply being calm and quiet in the woods. And research indicates that a number of both physical and mental health benefits are associated with forest bathing.
Not everyone may find it relaxing, but for many, camping can be an escape from the stress of everyday life, and a chance to enjoy a simpler, quieter existence. Some may enjoy a more primitive camping experience, with just a tent, a sleeping bag, a backpack, and a fire. Others may want a little more luxury, with a padded cot, comfortable and waterproof camping blankets, camp lighting, and even potable entertainment. Even if you can’t get away to a park or campsite, you might enjoy just setting up in your own backyard.
Painting, sketching, sculpting, wood carving, knitting – all of these are creative ways you can relax, express your emotions, and practice mindfulness as artistic creation involves calm focus and concentration on the task at hand. Doing any kind of art or anything creative can be a great way to recenter yourself, boost your mood, and sharpen your mental faculties.
You can try different exercises to practice visualization, using simple objects like an apple or a lit candle, to practice envisioning them and even touching or smelling them when they aren’t right in front of you. This can help you to focus on a goal in the future, maybe a place where you want to be, or something you want to accomplish. Or you could visualize better wellness for your loved one, or a better relationship with them.
Even if you can’t afford to take a whole spa day, just scheduling a half-hour massage can make a huge difference, since it can relieve stress and increase relaxation. Massage goes beyond just feeling good – it also helps you get better sleep, relieves pain symptoms, and improves your overall happiness.
Writing in your journal every day can help you explore and express your feelings. It also is a great way to gain a greater understanding of and mastery over events in your life. Plus, keeping a journal can be satisfying later on when you are looking back and trying to connect the dots of different things that happened, whether major or minor.
Reading and even memorizing poetry can be helpful for some people, since poetry puts into words and images certain deeply personal feelings or experiences you may want to explore but be uncertain how to articulate. Poetry can help you feel less alone, more understood, and more hopeful.
Caregiving is an act of love and sometimes a privilege, but it can also create a lot of extra stress and put a real burden on your mental health. So look for ways to relieve stress and care for your needs. You can also get useful resources and guidance from us here at Caregiverology.
Thank you Karen Weeks for contributing this article.