Caregivers don’t get much time to relax and unwind, let alone take care of themselves. When caregivers do find time, they rush toward household chores that have been put on hold. This revolving door feeds exhaustion and stress instead of helping us to ready ourselves for the next time we’re needed.
Here are 10 simple ways caregivers can practice self-care. They are designed to be low-cost and easy-to-do in those brief moments that caregivers get throughout the day. One may not work for you, but another might. Or maybe, some of these ideas might spark your own. Try one or two out. Be good to yourself. You deserve it.
1. Take a brief walk. More caregivers mention this option than any other. It can be moving in fairy circles around your back yard, or sauntering down the block. Just enough to clear your head and bring a smile back to your face.
2. Eat a piece of chocolate. Buy yourself some quality chocolate (you deserve it). My favorite is really dark chocolate. When you are given the gift of five minutes, unfold the wrapper and eat it in small pieces. Go slow. Savor the taste. Let the chocolate work its magic inside you, then let your outside reflect that goodness.
3. Hand massage. Keep a bottle of special lotion that you particularly like ready. When the clock strikes find a comfy chair and softly massage your own hands. Move gently, feeling your muscles, inviting them to loosen their grip. Go up your arms, if it feels good. If you really want to have fun, massage your feet.
4. Color. Buy yourself a new box of crayons, or some really good chalk. I like coloring to music myself. Don’t try to make anything at first, just return to playing with the colors without any specific agenda.
5. Watch Funny You Tube Videos. Power up your computer and ask the search for something really funny – Abbott and Costello or maybe those cute baby, kitten or puppy videos. Laughter is a healing thing. Use a headset, cover the volume of your laughs if you feel it is necessary. Laugh deeply.
6. Breathe. You can do this inside or outside, in your closet, or in front of the bathroom mirror if it helps. Personally, I lay down on my bed. Breathe intentionally from your diaphragm, emptying your lungs when you exhale. Imagine it as cleaning of your system. Practice.
7. Read. Have a favorite book or magazine at the ready. A good novel is usually able to be picked up wherever you left off. Having a comfy chair helps. Sometimes I read and eat nuts at the same time!
8. Close Your Eyes. You may not have time to take a quality nap. But there is nothing like “shutting it out” for a while. Find a comfortable spot. Don’t squeeze your eyes shut, gently bring down your lids, offering a temporary goodbye to the stress. Set a timer, if it helps you to relax and enter your imagination freely. This is not brainstorming problems time, but flying time!
9. Aromatherapy. This might be burning a scented candle or incense. There are some smells – like lavender – that can be relaxing in and of themselves. Find the smell that takes you away. This could also be the smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, or brewed coffee!
10. Snuggle or Hug. Snuggle with your cat or dog, or maybe a baby if one is around! Take a walk and hug people. Hugs and hellos that emanate from inside have been known to change the atmosphere. I have been known to call friends and ask them to come over for a hug and cup of coffee. It works wonders.
Tom Rinkoski is the Caregiver Coach for Elder Options in North Central Florida assisting people who are offering care to friends and families with dementia.