Self-Care for the Caregiver

Are you feeling burnt out, stressed, overwhelmed?  Do you fall asleep (perhaps on the couch) feeling like you have not finished everything, but you are too tired to do anything more.  Just to wake up stressed about all you have to do?  Is “relaxation” and “calm” a far away concept?  Oh, is that just me?  I think not!  Perhaps you could benefit from a regular routine of self-care, just as I will.   

Self-care, the act of taking care of oneself.  From basic needs to in-depth psychological healing, everyone needs to treat themselves right, every day.  You, as a parent of a child who is struggling or who has a disability, may put all of your time and energy into helping your child.  Therefore, not spending time to take care of and nurture yourself. 

You may have heard the cliché telling everyone how important self-care is, “You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself”.  And of course, the ever-present airplane example of placing the oxygen mask on yourself before placing it on your children.  Even though the importance of self-care is emphasized in our society, we often don’t think enough about how to care for ourselves. 

Before we get into "the how" let’s look at why.  Why self-care is important?  Here are a few tidbits I learned while researching this subject;

•        When you have a regular routine of self-care, you increase your confidence and self-esteem

•        Brene Brown states that Play (a form of self-care) is just as important as sleep to overall physical health and longevity.

•        One practice of self-care- the power nap- reduces coronary mortality risk by 37 percent. -Anne Lammont

•        When you take care of yourself, you maintain better Relationships.

•        With a routine of self-care, you will be more effective and energetic at work, with your family, and friends.

•        And of course, as you take care of yourself, you are a good role model for those around you.

Normally, when writing or presenting, I would give you a definition of the topic.  Instead, today we will be discovering what self-care is for you.   Self-care is very individual and personal.  In this blog, we will first talk about how to brainstorm things you do that maybe self-care.  Then we will learn the difference between self-care and escape.  Finally, you will create a plan for your own self-care. 

Activity

          Get a blank piece of paper.  In the center write “Things I do that are not work”.  Circle that.  All around the circle write, or brainstorm, all of the things you like to do.  Write down anything and everything that comes to mind.  Continue to brainstorm all of the things you actually do during downtime, stressed times, etc.  Maybe even some of the things you feel you ought to do, and would really like it if you did.  Be honest here, you do not need to share this with anyone.  Just a few things I have included in mine are; hiking, yoga, wine drinking, reading, theatre, binging Netflix, camping, dog park, dinner with friends, escape rooms, happy hour, webinars, museums, dancing, board games…Put this aside now, you will use it later. 

The difference between Self-Care and Escape

Us human beings, parents, spouses, do many things with what little free time we can grab.  Some of these are Self-Care, and others are Escape.  Everyone does both of these, and that is OK.  It is important that you understand and discern the difference between the two. 

          So what is escape and what is self-care? 

  You should definitely be practicing self-care more than escape.  You need self-care, but you do not need escape. Escape are those things, those behaviors, you exhibit so that you don’t think of the stressful things in your life.  They may also be avoidance behaviors.  These behaviors might work temporarily, but you really don’t feel any better after, and may even feel worse.  Another way to look at escape is that it is usually done to “Blow off steam”, or “take the edge off”.  Brene Brown describes these as numbing behaviors that we do to avoid the feelings that are uncomfortable. 

The real difference between self-care and escape are the reasons behind why you are doing it, and how this action contributes to your overall healthy feeling afterward. 

Again, this is personal, what might be escape to one person, could be self-care to another.  To confuse things even more, some activities can be both self-care as well as escape.  For example, I like to watch scary movies because they are so intense that I can’t think of anything else.  This is an escape normally.  However, if there is a movie that I have been looking forward to coming out, plan a special night of it, then watching the movie might be self-care.  Am I watching the movie to numb and avoid?  That is escape.  Or, am I setting time aside for myself to do something that will make me feel good, and I feel good afterwards. That is self-care. 

          Some Examples of escape are; drinking, over exercise, drugs, eating unhealthy things, social media, binge-watching TV, focusing too much on fantasy life, overworking, over cleaning, escaping in email, shopping, pornography, sex, relationships, money, over caretaking of others, purposeless internet research, gambling, staying busy, affairs, perfectionism, planning, constant change, adrenaline provoking sports, dangerous sports, gossip, napping, micromanaging situations, arguing (devil’s advocate) type of conversations.

          As I have mentioned, self-care activities are those things that also make you think less of the stressful things, but also make you feel wonderful.  When you are done, you feel rested and refreshed. 

          Examples of self-care are; getting a massage, going to yoga class, going for a hike, vacation, painting, reading, watching a special movie, special dinner out, exercise, writing a poem, fishing, meditate, dance, sing, church, practice gratitude, journaling, positive affirmative statements, mindfulness, shower, bath, petting an animal, spending time with friends, getting up to date on your doctors appointments.  They may also include brushing your teeth, keeping yourself clean, eating enough, eating healthy, getting out of bed.  Again, this is personal and address where you are, when you are. 

Activity

It is now time to categorize things you do for self-care and escape.  You can refer to the brainstorming map you used for our first activity.  This can help generate ideas, but don’t feel limited by this at all, add on as ideas come to you. 

Get another sheet of paper.  You can use several different ways to organize your thoughts here.  You can list Escape on one side of the paper, in the middle both, and the far side self-care.  Or you can use a Venn Diagram.  My favorite is to use a Double Bubble map.  You can find an example of this with a simple internet search.  (If you choose to use this, In the left circle write escape, and the right circle write self-care.  Notice that there is a circle attached only to the escape bubble, write something you see as only escape there, for me, binging Netflix.  The circle attached only to self-care, I am going to write hiking because when I do that, it is always self-care.  Then, the bubble attached to both, I write something that might be sometimes self-care sometimes, and others escape.  For me, this is watching a movie.  Go on to create more, creating bubbles with only one activity in each.)  However you decide to organize your thoughts is fine.    Being honest with yourself is important here, no one else has to  see this, but the benefits will be greater the more thought and honesty you put into this. 

This activity might bring up some vulnerable feelings, some awareness’s that you may not want to address.  Be cautious of these escaping behaviors, everyone has escaping behaviors, but for some, they can become addictions.  If you are escaping chronically and compulsively to numb, you should seek help.  Also, realize that when you numb the negative emotions, you also numb the positive emotions.  Continue with this exercise, but include getting help in your self-care plan.  And that is next, we are now going to make a plan. 

Activity

          Look at your double bubble map (or list, or Venn diagram), you have many self-care activities listed.  Some you can do daily, some weekly, some monthly, others annually.  

Organize the activities into the categories of daily, weekly, monthly, annually.  You may use all that you have listed, you may think of more, and you may disregard some too.  It’s all ok and a part of this process. 

          Now that you have an idea of things you would like to do for Self-Care, add these to your routine.  Put them on your calendar, planner, or set them on your phone. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this blog and to take this self-care time.  Please feel free to contact me if you would like to chat about how Insight Ed could help your child.  The first consultation is free.  You can contact me through email, text or phone at 720-560-8843, or michelle@insightedco.com . 

 

Sincere Thanks,

Michelle Angle