As a wife, mother, and therapist I am confronted daily with the needs of others. I am not in any way complaining. I enjoy helping others. I love taking care of my family. I want to support my husband and children so they can be successful. But in all that I do there are moments when I feel that I am lost in the shuffle. I am not alone. Many of my clients share the role of caregiver. They also struggle with finding themselves in the midst of caring for others. What then does a caregiver do? I have found that it is often a challenge to convince individuals in these roles (including myself), that self-care is not selfish. In fact, self-care is essential to prevent burn out, stressed induced anxiety, and ultimately resentment.
How can we then begin to take care of self? Here are a few tips I hope will be helpful:
- Notice your needs. Pay attention to yourself. That may sound like an obviously natural thing to do. But I have found that care-givers often sacrifice their own thoughts and feelings for the good of others.
- Find your quiet place. When you start to feel stressed step away if possible. Take deep cleansing breaths. Take a moment to think, meditate, or pray. These activities have been proven to slow down the heart rate and relieve stress in an anxious state.
- Do what you love. Do you like to exercise, read, take a class, or write? In the midst of all that you have to do, doing what gives you joy is critical to self- care.
- Communicate your needs. Often, the individuals who are the object of our care are so happy with all you do they forget you need as well. It is ok to say no or not right now. It is ok to delegate responsibilities. It is ok to just say I am stressed and need a moment to myself.
Putting these ideas into practice take time. Your natural tendency will be to forgo your needs and focus on others. Your caring spirit is beautiful and much needed in this world. However, you must treasure and protect yourself or you will be left with very little to give.
Alicia Lurry MA LPC CRC