“Self-care” is a buzz term these days. If you spend any time on social media, you’re likely to run across a handful of posts that talk about it. However, unlike the popular term used by influencers, self-care doesn’t only look like sneaking away for a bubble bath and face mask. Rather, it is about finding time to prioritize yourself and do something that brings you joy to give yourself a much-needed break from the daily challenges of caregiving.
Oftentimes, caregivers tell me they feel guilty for spending any time on themselves when a loved one needs so much from them. They feel as if they are neglecting their responsibilities. However, it’s important to know that caregiver burnout is a common and growing issue that can cause both mental and physical issues if not tackled early on. In fact, the National Family Caregivers Association describes caregiving as being three times more work and stress than caring for someone with any other type of illness. This has become such a big problem that it’s not uncommon for the dementia-challenged to outlive their caregivers. To put it simply, if you don’t take care of yourself, you may simply not be around to continue providing care.
If you begin to feel guilt or that you are being selfish by prioritizing yourself, try to refocus your thoughts to remember that you can provide the best care when you take care of yourself first. The person you are caring for is a lot of like a mirror when it comes to your emotions; if you are showing body language that communicates stress or anxiety, it will likely be reflected back to you. Even worse, they probably don’t understand why are you exhibiting these feelings. On the other side of this, when you are at ease and patient, the person you’re caring for can perceive this and will feel more safe and loved throughout the entire caregiving day.
Caregiving is certainly not an easy journey. When you can reduce the stress in your life and begin to exist in a place of serenity, more often you will see the entire caregiving experience begin to transform. While this isn’t going to happen overnight, you can take daily steps to remain in the place of calmness, which will improve both of your lives.
If you want more easy-to-implement strategies for caregiving like this one, order the third edition of my best-selling A Loving Approach to Dementia Care here.