When you’re caring for a loved one, you might feel like there’s no time left to take care of yourself. You may be concerned about losing your sense of self as you take on more responsibility or even feel guilty about taking time away from them. But the truth is that self-care isn’t just nice – it’s essential to helping you cope when you spend time caring for others.
Self-care is any activity that makes you feel good and restores your energy. It could be something simple, like listening to your favourite music or taking a walk in nature. Or it could be something more challenging, like learning how to set boundaries or ask for help. Whatever works for you, here are some suggestions on how to take care of yourself as you care for others…
When you’re caring for other people, it can be easy to do more than your share. You might feel like you have to do everything yourself, but no one can keep going indefinitely. To protect your health and wellbeing, you have to set clear boundaries with yourself and anyone you may be caring for; whether that’s at home or in a work situation.
Setting boundaries with a loved one might be difficult, but it’s also essential. Learn to say “no” when you need to (there’s a great guide on saying no here) and set realistic expectations for yourself. However, if you’re unable to say no because the responsibility falls to you, then try…
Asking for help when you need it
You may be reluctant to ask for help, especially if you’re worried about burdening others, but it’s important to get the support you need. Family and friends may be willing to help you out, and support groups or other local organisations may be able to offer you resources.
If you need help with finances, you may be able to apply for government benefits – see what you’re entitled to here. If you need help with caregiving, you can see what’s available on the NHS website here. You may also want to talk to your GP about anything they know of available in your local area. Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness, so don’t be afraid to reach out.
Take care of ‘The Basics’
Over time, caring for others can take a toll on your physical health and you might experience more frequent health issues. Not only that, but if you already have a chronic health issue, it might get worse. Chronic stress can lead to unhealthy habits, such as not eating well or not getting enough sleep. These habits can make it harder for you to care for your loved ones and yourself.
To protect your wellbeing, you need to take care of what we call ‘The Basics.’ Getting enough sleep, eating food that makes you feel good, and drinking water are three simple but effective ways to take care of yourself so you can better take care of others.
Practice self-care activities you enjoy
Some ways to take care of yourself may seem obvious, but you may find that you’re so busy taking care of your loved one that you don’t have time to do these things. There are lots of ways that you can practice self-care while also taking care of your loved one. Start by making a list of things you enjoy and ask your friends and family members what they do for self-care for inspiration.
Look for self-care activities that you can incorporate into your everyday life that you actually enjoy. For example, you can listen to music or a podcast, read, or practice mindfulness. In this podcast episode, I look at ways you can find the time for wellbeing in your routine – even when you’re busy caring for others!
Caring for others is one of the most selfless acts anyone can do, but it’s likely that you don’t take the time to celebrate yourself very often. Instead, you may fall into a pattern of negative self-talk as you become overwhelmed with everything you need to do.
Take some time each day, even if it’s just a minute or two before bed, to celebrate everything that you’ve achieved that day. It doesn’t matter if it’s something small, like finding the time to brush your hair, or something bigger. What matters is that you celebrate yourself as the superhuman that you are.
In the end, self-care is essential to being able to cope with the challenges of caring for others. You have to take care of yourself so you can take care of your loved one. Learning how to set boundaries, ask for help, take care of ‘The Basics,’ practice self-care activities and celebrate yourself can all help you do just that.