7 Ways to Practice Emotional Self-Care as a Caregiver
Having experienced tensions, along with some degree of emotional baggage is, in fact, part of the human experience. Yet, for some mothers, daughters, sons and spouses these rifts run so deep that there is little chance that either party is going to be able to put their differences aside even when care is needed.
Stepping into the role of caregiver is an honorable act of love. It can be rewarding, and in many circumstances the act of caring for someone you love can lead to emotional and spiritual growth.
It should also be noted that caring for someone you love can place additional strains on your relationship, even when there is a solid foundation. Therefore, practicing emotional self-care is an important strategy for self-preservation.
What Is Emotional Self-Care?
Emotional self-care is the act of wrapping yourself in a blanket of comfort and shielding yourself from situations and individuals that increase your distress. It also means that sometimes you will need to repel individuals and possibly circumvent situations that are likely to derail your emotional peace.
What Happens If You Don’t Practice Self-Care as a Caregiver?
So, what might you encounter if you do not actively engage in self-care strategies? You are likely to experience some level of emotional stress, and when compounded over time, unresolved stress can lead to distress and eventually burnout.
Having outlets for your stress and having someone with whom to confide is essential. Networking with other caregivers and talking to those in situations similar to yours can also be of benefit. What matters most is that you make emotional self-care a part of your daily routine.
7 Emotional Self-Care Strategies
In addition to having the proper outlets, you may also participate in practices that you alone can control to ease your emotional distress. The following are seven strategies that you may find helpful when developing a plan for practicing emotional self-care:
Make a Playlist of Music That Brings You Comfort
Listening to music can change your mood. You might make more than one playlist so that you have a variety of tunes that you can listen to depending on how you are feeling at the time.
When you are feeling stressed you may choose to listen to a set of tracks that you find relaxing, and when you’re sad, you may choose to listen to a different type of music.
Write an Encouraging Letter to Yourself
When you are emotionally distressed it may be really challenging to identify your most positive attributes. Consider writing a letter of encouragement and address it to yourself. When you are having a particularly challenging day you can pull it out and read it aloud to remind yourself of all the great things about you.
Create a No-Dumping Zone
Have you ever picked up the phone or walked into a room and someone begins talking non-stop about all of their problems?
It can be exhausting to have someone dump all of their distress on you. Creating a no-dumping zone can be a great way to set boundaries and re-direct individuals who might not respect your need for emotional wellness.
Set a Time to Be Alone in Quiet and Peace
Setting a time to reflect and to relax your mind can be a perfect way to begin or end your day. This alone time should not require you to do anything; rather, it should be about time to focus on emotional wholeness.
Listen to What Your Body Is Telling You
Are you feeling tired all the time, experiencing aches and pains or walking around with your stomach in knots? Listen to your body; perhaps it is trying to tell you something. Should these symptoms persist, it is important to reach out to your doctor.
Be Gentle with Yourself
You may find that in the course of caring for a loved one you become frustrated, short-tempered or in some situations, you may even feel angry. It is okay to experience a wide range of emotions, in fact it is healthy.
Embrace your feelings. Don’t beat yourself up by feeling guilty or by overthinking your actions. Be gentle with yourself, you are human.
Find Passions Outside Your Role as a Caregiver
Make sure that you are taking time to do things that have nothing to do with your role as a caregiver. Reach out and ask for help if you need someone to assist with the care of your loved one so that you can do something you enjoy.
Learning to effectively put your needs first does not come naturally for most caregivers. Should you find that you are in need of more pointed support do not be afraid to reach out to a professional counselor or therapist to help you find ways to care for yourself while you care for your loved one.
How do you practice emotional self-care? If you had to create an emotional-self-care kit what items would you include? Please share your thoughts below!
Dr. Eboni Green is an author and educator who has a passion for training, supporting, advocating for and educating family and frontline caregivers. She and her husband cofounded Caregiver Support Services, a nonprofit organization that provides training and consulting for caregivers. Dr. Green is a published author and has written three books focusing on family caregiving. You can follow her on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, or connect via LinkedIn.