Taking care of a loved one with special health needs, whether that’s a child, spouse, grandparent or partner, is supposed to be a rewarding experience. After all, what better way to show your love than by sacrificing yourself for someone else?
But while it sounds like rainbows and unicorns, the truth is — caregiving is hard. It’s hard physically, financially and most of all, emotionally. And while caregiver support websites can offer a place to vent and get validation from like-minded peers, their tips for self-care are often unrelated to life in the real world.
The Problem With Current Tips
If you’ve ever visited a website designed for caregivers, or ones for dealing with loved ones with specific illnesses, you’ve probably seen at least one article on self-care for caregivers. Here you’ll find tips like take a spa day, go shopping and get some retail therapy or have another family member come and take over for you. If you’re thinking, ya, right, you see the problem with these.
For many caregivers, time out of the house is limited to doctor’s appointments because loved ones can’t be left alone. And money is always tight, so shopping means food and medicines. As for family members, many are either too far away or unreliable.
So how can you take care of yourself so you can take care of someone else?
Have a Backup Plan
Part of self-care is the relief you can get knowing there’s a backup plan for your loved one in case something happens to you. This can mean different things depending on the level of care your person needs. A neighbor might be a good alternative if your patient only needs companionship or minimal care.
However, if your charge needs more help on a regular basis, the time to find a reputable home care service is before you need one. Make sure to find one that is well-reviewed by searching online reviews.
For example, if you live in Mississippi, you might search for Mississippi home care and check out the comments from people who have used each particular company. Many companies offer free consultations, so take them up on them. This will allow you to possibly contract with them on an as-needed basis.
Take Time for Yourself
While this sounds like a no-brainer and that it should be easy to do, as a caregiver, you know this is often way easier said than done. The good news is that you don’t have to take long breaks to see some positive results. Some research shows that just 10 minutes spent alone can help you reconnect with your creative side and increase empathy and productivity, as well as shore up your mental health.
Most caregivers can carve out 10 minutes at some point during the day, but you may need to be intentional to figure it out. Maybe while your loved one is sleeping. Giving up 10 minutes of your own sleep is well worth it to balance your mental health. If your patient regularly watches TV or spends time doing something else, this is the time to sneak away and take those precious minutes. Just remember, this time is not meant for doing household chores like dishes and laundry; this is “me time.”
What To Do With 10 Minutes Alone
If 10 minutes is what you have to work with, make the most of them. Here are a few ideas for what you can do. Writing in a journal is an excellent way to get your emotions and feelings out on paper. It doesn’t have to be a fancy journal if you don’t have one, or splurge and get yourself a pretty one if your budget allows. The important thing is to start writing things down.
Other ideas include stretching exercises, adult coloring, reading a book for fun, meditation, reading your Bible or other religious texts, binge some YouTube short videos. Obviously, more time means you can do even more.
What you do with your minutes depends on your interests, but the things above can all be done in a short amount of time and for little to no money. While the platitude that you “can’t pour from an empty cup” is absolutely true, the good thing is that it doesn’t take much to top off that cup if you can spare just 10 minutes.