Self Care is Not Selfish
People can sometimes think that taking care of themselves when they are a caregiver for someone else is something that is a selfish or mean act. That somehow making sure that we are doing well and coping with everything around us, what we are experiencing and feeling and processing, is causing harm to those we are caring for. Yet not sleeping, not eating, not giving ourselves time to decompress, causes more harm than the few minutes a day we need to take care of ourselves.
Remember, first, that no one is superhuman. We all have limits, physical and mental, that will affect us, especially over a long period of time. There is no way for someone to neglect themselves and hope that everything will continue to work the way it is supposed to. We experience fatigue, we experience stress, anxiety, anger, depression, and a whole gamut of emotions that sometimes we can’t even name. While remembering this try to remember that as we experience all of this we must acknowledge that we cannot properly care for others unless we are caring for ourselves. We won’t be as good, won’t be as responsive, won’t be as ready to deal with what our caregiving throws at us unless we are taking time to care for ourselves. No one can make it through life without recharging their batteries once in a while, and being a caregiver drains us of our energy quickly. Finally remember that self care doesn’t work as well, or sometimes not at all, if it is only utilized when things are already starting to fall apart. Self care must be part of our day, part of our lifestyle, part of our routine if it is to benefit us and those we care about. Waiting until our emotions threaten to tear us apart and our bodies are falling over with exhaustion is too late. We must practice self care daily for it to work.
For those out there that are new to caregiving, thinking of taking care of yourself may seem like something you would not have time for. Yet there are many short, schedule-friendly, ideas that can help bolster your mental and physical stamina so that you can continue to be the best caregiver you can possibly be. Find the things that help you the most, that fit into your schedule, and work for you in your environment, and stick to them. You may not feel great benefits from it immediately always, but overtime you will start to notice your stress decrease and your mood increase. It does not happen all at once, which is why it is so important to practice self care daily, but when it does start to kick in you will be thankful you took the time to care for yourself and so, we suspect, will the person who you are caring for who will notice the improved mood and the extra energy that you can bring to them to help get them through this time. Self care is not selfish, it is about being at your best to help those you love.