As a caregiver, it can be challenging to find time to care for yourself. But self-care is essential, especially when you are responsible for the care of others. Not convinced? Take it from the Dalai Lama: “…if you feel ‘burnout’ setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself. The point is to have a long-term perspective,” said the esteemed spiritual leader.
In keeping with the theme of self-care, we’ve come up with the following New Year’s Resolutions for Caregivers. Take good care in 2018!
1. Take care of your body
We know, who has time for exercise or preparing healthy meals when you’re a busy caregiver? The truth is, you don’t have the time not to care for your health. After all, if you get sick, who will care for your child, parent, spouse, students or clients? So, come up with a work-out schedule, take a yoga class, maintain a healthy diet and make and keep your own medical appointments.
2. Take care of your mind
Many of the steps you take to care for your body, will also support your mental health. But when facing burnout from a demanding job as a special education teacher or therapist, or a parent of a child with disabilities, good self-care may also include individual or group counseling. Don’t hesitate to seek it.
3. Maintain social ties
When caring for someone with special needs, it can feel like there’s no time for activities such as parties, girl’s nights out, or even a cup of coffee with a dear friend. Do your best to make time. Having fun will rejuvenate your spirit and renew your energy for caregiving.
4. Make time for other loved ones
Sometimes spouses or siblings get lost in the shuffle, when caring for a sick relative or child with a disability. Be mindful of the need to nurture relationships with those you love, even if it means getting a qualified babysitter, or adult caretaker.
5. Take your vacation days
Teachers and therapists who work with children and adults with disabilities typically get a good number of vacation, sick and personal days. That’s because their jobs are emotionally and physically taxing and they need that time off. Don’t put off vacations, and don’t go to work when you’re ill, you’ll put your health and well-being at risk, and ultimately, you’ll provide less than optimal care to students and clients.
6. Give yourself permission to feel sad, frustrated or angry
Having a positive attitude has many benefits. In fact a recent study at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that optimism reduces the risk of dying prematurely. That said, it’s also important to acknowledge and experience feelings of sadness, frustration and anger when they inevitably occur. Another study at Harvard and the University of Rochester found that “Emotion suppression may convey risk for earlier death, including death from cancer.” So, practice recognizing and tolerating negative feelings, but then practice letting them go. Meditation is a great way to learn these skills.
7. Treat yourself
Splurge on a massage, mani-pedi, caregivers retreat or weekend away with your partner or best friend. You’re worth it and so are your children, students or clients. All will benefit from their interactions with a revitalized you!