Caregivers often hear the refrain, “Make sure you do something for yourself!” And they may think, “Sure, who has time for a trip to the salon or dinner and a show?” But taking time out for yourself doesn’t necessarily require making elaborate plans.
Simple, brief experiences that are calming and joyful are just as important for emotional and spiritual restoration as a monthly get-away, said Visiting Nurse Association of Ohio art therapist Yanira Prokop, ATPCC.
The trick is to take regular breaks – 20 minutes every day – to enjoy a peaceful moment doing something you enjoy. Prokop said caregivers should fill those 20 minutes with activities – or no activity at all – to relieves stress.
“The excuse is always, I don’t have time,” Prokop said. “But I think everyone can find 20 minutes to do something simple for themselves.” She offered caregivers the following tips for “me” time:
- Make an appointment with yourself. Block out time on the calendar every day, and don’t cancel!
- Remember to keep self-care activities simple and easy. “Caregivers forget that taking care of yourself can be getting a glass of ice tea, sitting out on the back porch and enjoying your back yard.”
- Keep a journal. “Caregivers are always listening to the other person, and a lot of times they aren’t able to express themselves and talk about what they need,” Prokop said.
- Explore different types of creative expression. In addition to drawing, painting and other artistic endeavors, Prokop suggests her clients try creative writing. She encourages caregivers to use prompts, such as images or words cut from a magazine, as a starting point to write about their feelings. “It’s often a cathartic exercise, where they can let this stuff come out in a safe way,” she said. “They don’t have to show it to anybody, but it feels good to not have to keep it inside anymore.”
- During these 20-minute sessions, unplug from everything that isn’t pleasant and calming. “Caregivers need to remember that they are human beings, and they need to be taken care of as well.”
- Remove yourself from the caregiving environment as much as possible during the 20-minute period, even if that means going outside or into a different room.
- Practice deep-breathing exercises and guided imagery. “When you are caught up in things, your breathing changes,” Prokop said. “You don’t realize it, but the breaths are not as deep and full and as good for your body. Take a few deep breaths and focus on your breathing.”
No matter how caregivers spend those 20 minutes, the important thing is that they make the commitment to set aside the time.
“People think that they are being selfish to pull themselves away from the person they are caring for,” Prokop said. “But I like to remind them that if they don’t take care of themselves, they will not be able to take care of their loved ones.”
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Posted in: Caregiver Resources