3 Self-Care Strategies for Caregivers
The term “self-care” is popular in media. It’s easy to see why. It’s a simple term that simultaneously encourages us and permits us to take time out of the day just for ourselves. Time. For ourselves? Yes!
Self-care is crucial for optimal health and wellness, especially for integrative health professionals who spend their days committed to helping other people heal. It can be rewarding work. And, it can also be draining.
Caregiving—whether for clients or family members—can be stressful. It can also lead to challenges like poor sleep or a weakened immune system. Well, that’s no good. Health professionals need to be especially protective of their individual well-being so they’re able to help other people.
But, it doesn’t have to be complicated. With a little awareness and commitment, you can cultivate a self-care practice that’s satisfying and sustainable over the long term.
Here are three self-care strategies busy care givers that can be integrated into their day:
#1 Explore spirituality.
Wellness starts by establishing a healthy relationship with the body.
The human body is, without doubt, the most complex machine on earth. But, it’s much more than that!
The body is the repository for the “self,” a person’s essential nature. And, it deserves thanks. One way to express thanks is through a spiritual or religious practice.
Spirituality and religion are often left out of health books, but they’re gaining in popularity as the medical and holistic health communities witnesses their positive effects.
Whatever your personal choices, try not to ignore this side of yourself. There are many options to explore. One of the simplest is called “count your blessings.”
Here’s an example of a simple “count your blessings” practice you can easily integrate into your day:
- Thank your eyes for giving you the gift of sight.
- Thank your body for allowing you to sit still long enough to read this blog post.
- Thank yourself for embarking on this journey of wellness.
- And so on …
Research shows a gratitude practice like “count your blessings” can have many health benefits. It can help improve sleep quality, self-esteem, mental strength, and physical health. A 2012 study from the University of Kentucky also shows expressing gratitude can increase empathy, an essential communication skill for any health professional.
But, if this specific gratitude practice doesn’t speak to you today, here’s another: writing. It’s portable. It’s private. And, it can be a very effective tool for release. (You can find more benefits and writing techniques here.)
A 2015 literature review called “Preventing occupational stress in healthcare workers” and published by the Cochrane Library reported that: “In 17 studies there was low- to moderate-quality evidence that both mental and physical relaxation led to a reduction of 23% in stress levels compared to no intervention”.
Where to start? Some people find exercise relaxing. It’s difficult to stress about the day when you’re coordinating flailing arms and legs in Zumba class or while breathing your way up the infernal Stairmaster climb.
Well, we know we need regular exercise and if you find it relaxing, all the better. But some of us might need to try some different relaxation strategies, too.
Relaxation comes from doing something you enjoy, from being absorbed in the moment, and it’s as fundamental to good health as the food we eat. Do not neglect this aspect of your health regime, regardless of how busy you are.
We lead stressful lives, and so do our clients. Just watching the news can be a stressful experience. It’s important to “let go” of all these stresses and worries. They can accumulate in the body.
There are many ways to introduce more relaxation in your life. Try something easy (or a combination):
- Keep potted plants and fresh flowers in your home and/or office.
- Diffuse your favorite essential oils in your home and/or office.
- Soak in a fragrant bath, scented with lavender Lavandula angustifolia (Mill.) or rose Rosa damascena (Mill.) essential oils. Play some relaxing music, light an aromatherapy candle, read a book, and relax. Remember not to have the water too hot, and add the essential oils just before you get in, as they evaporate quickly.
- Try yoga classes. This is an excellent way to reduce stress and tone your body at the same time.
- Remember to enjoy the small moments of daily life. Do things that bring you into appreciation. Take a walk in nature. Pet a dog. Cook a good meal.
#3 Explore how to get more sleep.
Working with clients requires deep focus. To focus, you need to be alert. To be alert, you need to be well-rested. It’s a domino effect.
Plus, sleep helps us to learn and process information!
Studies conducted by Harvard Medical School and the Lab of Neurophysiology at the Massachusetts Health Center show that skills and new factual information may not get properly encoded into the brain’s memory circuits without adequate sleep.
They suggest that there are two stages during sleep (one at the beginning of sleep and one at the end) when the brain undergoes physical and chemical changes, and these interactions may be what strengthens memory traces.
Those who do not get a full night’s sleep might be shortchanging themselves of that critical time at the end of the sleeping pattern that allows them to fully process what they’ve learned.
It is essential to go through the deep sleep phase in the first hours of sleep and the rapid-eye-movement stage during the end of a full night’s sleep, when vivid dreaming occurs. It is also essential that we get a full night of sleep on the daily!
If you need a little help, here are 24 natural sleep aids for restful, rejuvenating sleep. Always check with your medical doctor or naturopath before integrating herbs into part of your healthy sleep routine.