12* Ways We Care for Ourselves During Caregiving


12* Ways We Care for Ourselves During Caregiving

I often write about how much I can resent the advice that "I need to take care of myself" during caregiving. (Read: When I'm Taking Care of Myself Please Don't Tell Me to Take Care of Myself.)

I recently had a conversation with a friend about self-care during caregiving. During that conversation, I explained how I gained weight during a very stressful and intense 2015 and 2016. My friend immediately responded, "You didn't take care of yourself."

That drives me nuts. Because I didn't head off to weekly manicures or monthly massages, others may jump to the conclusion that self-care is missing. Not that spa treatments aren't wonderful. But, that's not the kind of self-care we practice every day.

I've created a list of ways we take care of ourselves during caregiving. Please add yours in our comments section, below.

1. Self-care during caregiving means we talk ourselves through incredibly stressful situations. We take a deep breath and step into situations that bring up our greatest fears. We do it every day.

2. Self-care during caregiving means we spend time with our faith. We turn to prayer to say thanks, to ask for guidance, to request the strength to continue.

3. Self-care during caregiving means we politely correct the health care professionals who offer suggestions that won't work because of practical, logistical or financial reasons. We repeatedly stand up for ourselves within a health care system which relies heavily on us while often working against us.

4. Self-care during caregiving means we calmly request help from services and programs -- over and over and over. We advocate for what we need within a system that's often not helpful or accessible or simple or friendly.

5. Self-care during caregiving means we forgive those family members and friends who disappear during the toughest times of our lives. Often, that forgiveness happens daily.

6. Self-care during caregiving means we let go of the frivolous because we choose the meaningful. Meaningful moments most often happen in private and sometimes may be overlooked by others who don't get it. But we don't overlook them. We treasure them.

7. Self-care during caregiving means we stay present with our caree during those tough times because we know we are giving ourselves a future of minimal regrets. And, during those tough times, we bear witness to a pain and suffering we often can't quite endure. Yet, we remain, fully present.

8. Self-care during caregiving means we vent in ways that feel right for us. We may journal in private or blog in public. We may do both. We may vent while driving alone in the car. We may vent while loading the washing machine one more time. We may vent in a community support group or an online chat. And, we may not vent to everyone because we know not everyone can understand it.

9. Self-care during caregiving means we give back to other family caregivers. We understand that in giving, we receive.

10. Self-care during caregiving means we show up to work because we need our careers, our paycheck and our benefits. And, many times, we arrive at work with a heavy heart and a suffering soul. We still gather the energy to put on our game face.

11. Self-care during caregiving means we sometimes just lay on the couch. We're tired. Sometimes we're so tired we can't walk another step. Couch time means we'll be able to get up tomorrow and face it all again.

12. Self-care during caregiving means we prepare for a future without our carees, which can test us in ways we can't describe. And, yet, we live with that reality, knowing we must prepare for those days. So, we begin to create a future during which we can tackle our bucket list while making a difference for others. We know purpose because of our caregiving experience. We plan to keep purpose throughout our remaining days.

*13. Self care during caregiving means we shed tears, sometimes out of frustration, sometimes out of sadness and sometimes because of being deeply touched. We may cry when others don't expect it. We may cry when we don't expect it. But cry we do because we know tears heal. (I added this one a few moments after publishing the post.)

So, if you see a family caregiver who holds extra weight around the middle or who carries bags under the eyes, avoid making the diagnosis that self-care is missing.

What you see isn't lack of self-care. It could be lack of help. It could be lack of understanding. It could be lack of support. It could be a lack of financial resources. It may be all of that and more.

You are looking at a family caregiver dealing with the overwhelming and relentless stress of caregiving the best ways he or she can. You can minimize that stress by pitching in to help, by listening to him or her (and that's it -- just listen) and by thanking him or her.

I believe we do our very best to take care of ourselves during caregiving. Caregiving is a different kind of life, which is why self-care becomes a different type of exercise. Rather than assuming we don't take care of ourselves, take time to notice our git, courage and resilience.

I had a horrible 2015 and a challenging 2016. I'm here now, standing tall. Obviously, whatever I did got me to here.

We're holding on. And, that's quite exceptional.

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I think I'm gonna have to print this out as well! I care for myself by telling myself that I can have a hobby. I love the internet because I can have things delivered like arts and craft items. I try to have my mind open to possibilities and I take online classes. There are so many FREE online classes. Check your local library for them. Ask the reference librarian. I text my sisters and that way I can say Hi even when there are a 100 things to do. I read affirmations and say prayers. I love to doodle and draw and I do that all the time. I stretch and I'm working on trying to have a regular yoga workout schedule. Being mentally flexible helps as well.I try to accepting the little kid in me that feels like I'm missing out by being a kind parent who explains that getting nervous and anxious is not going to help anyone. So by talking to myself in a compassionate way I get a lot more energy and work done.


Great article Denise! Im printing off your 13 points for quick reference.\r\nI like how you said: \"Rather than assuming we don’t take care of ourselves, take time to notice our git, courage and resilience.............. I’m here now, standing tall. Obviously, whatever I did got me to here.\"


Great to see you <a class='bp-suggestions-mention' href='https://www.caregiving.com/members/dilys/' rel='nofollow'>@dilys</a>!!


Great article, Denise! Thank you! I am developing self-care habits that include blogging, spending time with my eleven year old grandson, watching funny movies, most recently going back to the senior center and starting back to gentle exercise and gabbing with smiling seniors, praying and, one of the most important, is remaining teachable. I allow a core group of people to speak truth to me and when I hear the same message from several of those people I know I am hearing a truth and I can choose to make a change with confidence that it is good for me. AND, this website and the chats which are blessing me every single day. I brag about my chat friends. I brag about all this site offers. Sharing about myself and listening to other caregivers is empowering me to be a better person in all areas of my life and to deeply respect the journey so many of us are on. I burst with love for Denise who has taken the time and effort to make this place happen. It is a gift.

Lillie Fuller

I love this and I need to print those out and hang them on the wall, i need to send them to family and friends who are always telling me to take care of myself. maybe i should have them printed on a tee shirt for all to see. and use your words, please don't tell me to take care of myself, when that is what i am doing!

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