Self-Care for Caregivers: What? Why? How?
On our website, the Foundation reminds GBS|CIDP caregivers that no one can prepare you for the challenges you will face. Though this journey is stressful, there are things you can do to help you manage. One of the most important is taking care of yourself.
What is self-care?
Self-care is being concerned about yourself, as well as others; looking out for your own welfare, making sure that your needs are met. Self-care is that collection of healthy choices you make and behaviors you practice that make you feel good, solve your problems and ultimately, relieve your stress. Self-care avoids stress-numbing behaviors like smoking, eating junk food, or excess eating and drinking. Self-care is a health promotion/disease prevention activity; it isn’t selfish.
Why is it important?
In the absence of self-care, you are vulnerable to stress related illnesses. It is important because managing stress by practicing self-care preserves your health, well-being and capacity to care. Remember the airplane advice: “put your oxygen mask on before trying to help others.” As a caregiver, you can’t help if you can’t function.
So, self-care is not something that can be ignored without consequences. It’s not simply “nice-to-do.” It is necessary if you want to remain healthy and continue providing good quality care.
How can I practice self-care?
Don’t wait until you have already worn down; make self-care a priority in your daily routine. Choose things that are self-soothing–whatever helps you calm down, have fun, relax, or feel joy. When called for, choose things that involve self-discipline like regular exercise or maintaining a healthy weight. Although less pleasurable, in the long run, disciplined self-care practices lead to a greater sense of well-being. Use this Self-Care Checklist to name your current practices and find some new ideas. As you do so much for others, remember to take good care for yourself, too!
Jane Meier Hamilton MSN, RN
Founder: Partners on the Path, LLC www.PartnersonthePath.com
Founder: Pinnacle Help for Caregivers, LLC www.pinnaclehelp4cgs.com
Find Jane’s new book The Caregiver’s Guide to Self-Care 2nd Edition on Amazon and B&N