How to Assure Self-Care (Even as an Overwhelmed Caregiver)
Are you hoping your health and self-care don’t circle the drain while all your time and energy are being swallowed up caring for someone else? You’re in the right place.
Caring for your own health might feel damn near impossible when you’re focused on a parent who has declining memory and abilities or a sick loved one.
Time seems to disappear with the blink of an eye and then it’s hasta la vista baby for your own self-care. The secret tho is to keep it itty bitty. And keep that itty bitty consistent.
Keep reading for the 4 steps to build momentum and be self-care successful.
Step #1: Adjust Your Expectations
Women seem wired to feel guilt, shame, and frustration first. We know what we need to do to take charge of our own health but it feels so damn impossible.
These are just a couple of things I hear, ‘How can I possibly fit one more thing into my schedule… there is zero time to workout, let alone have the energy to do so?’ Or, ‘Why can’t I eat that dang donut or drink a much-wanted glass of wine without feeling judged?’
Do you feel like things’ll come crashing down if you pause for single a moment to do one thing for yourself, like go for a walk or take a shower? My guess is you’re tiptoeing through each day holding your breath waiting for the next shoe to drop. That the mental and emotional energy you’re expending is enough to power a small island with nothing left to power a workout. It’s stressful.
No one understands what you’re going through until they’re the one in the thick of it. This is why a lot of well-meaning folks suggest things that don’t make sense to you.
Set yourself up for success by embracing the slow and steady plan. Fitting in self-care for you means celebrating the itty-bitty rather than the grandiose.
Step #2: Take stock
Take stock of your “normal” and, also, of what makes you feel your superhero best.
What is your normal?
…regular emergency visits, constant emotional worry, along with trying to balance own needs?
…long work hours, loved ones to care for after hours, and more house than time to attend?
…your LO constantly shouting for you from another room, TV blasting at all hours of the day, as you attempt to work from home?
A caregiver’s normal is entirely different than the rest of the world. Take a few minutes to jot down all that has a stranglehold on your life currently and, also, how it makes you feel. It will give you power. And though you may not feel it now, you’ll get there. I promise.
Self-care begins by honoring the current season you’re in.
What brings you joy or makes you feel like a superhero?
I’m not talking about the things you or anyone else thinks you “should” be doing for self-care. PS… it’s time to get rid of the “should’s” because no one needs more of that!
What I’m referring to are the pure, unadulterated things that make you smile or chuckle with joy.
Some ideas from previous clients:
- Gulping down a nice big glass of water in the morning
Walking around barefoot, connecting with mother Earth
- Stepping outside to smell the fresh air
My personal superhero moment – washing my face, I can conquer anything.
You are you, that’s truer than true. Don’t judge your little (or big) joys, simply write them down and marinate in the feel-good feelings that you’re swimming in right now.
Now that you’ve taken stock of your “normal” and what brings you superhero feelings of joy, it’s time to make a plan.
Step #3: Pick 1, maaaaaybe 2, habits to pursue
Your environment plays a MASSIVE part in your ability to make progress on your health and self-care goals. That’s OK right now.
You’ll guarantee yourself success if you pick just ONE or TWO actions to focus on. And they gotta be simple.
Here’s how you pick:
Review all the things that make you feel the most superhero. Pick the one that takes the least amount of time and brings the biggest smile to your face. This is habit one.
Then looking at your “normal” schedule, where can you sneak that pesky little feel-good moment into your day… most days?
If you want, repeat for a second habit.
Then stop. You’ll be tempted to keep going because it feels so good to be adding little pops of joy to your day but don’t. That doesn’t mean you can’t do them if you want to, it means you aren’t going to place your focus on anything except the one or two habits.
Step #4: Practice.
Write down your habit(s) on a calendar and put a checkmark on each day you complete them. The goal is to aim for 80% or better, consistently, before adding anything else to your plate.
You may find you are gangbusters, in the beginning, and then find yourself falling off track. Know that it’ll take time to establish your self-care habits. Keep practicing and if you need to adjust, adjust. There are no set rules, except to keep at it. 😉
As you begin to feel better and more successful, you’ll naturally want to do more. It’s the positive snowball effect.
And then, as with all seasons, it changes.
When I started caring for Papa, I found that most of my positive long-time habits went out the window. At first, it was hard to believe I would be able to do anything that benefited my well-being while in the thick of it.
Starting with one habit, I was able to work my way up to four. After my time as a caregiver ended, I built on that foundation.
That’s what brings me here today, to help others like you, who feel overwhelmed caring for loved ones begin to make a change in your own self-health-care.
No matter where you are today, know that you can do this. You, and only you, get to make a choice about your health even when you’re getting swept up in the momentum of life events. Progress is made by the small seemingly insignificant things done day after day after day after day. Time is on your side and there’s no day like today to start. If you don’t know where to start or want to chat with someone who’s been there, hop on a free 20-minute call with me. 💙
Wishing you all the best in health,