Today is National Caregivers’ Day, and we’d like to take a moment to honor the essential role that caregivers play in our communities.
Whether it is for loved ones or how you earn your living, giving care is work. Caregivers provide care for the young and elderly, the sick and others needing care, and perform other varieties of domestic work. This type of labor is often undervalued, and much of it goes uncounted in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Giving care can be rewarding, and it also requires an enormous amount of energy. It can be exhausting, stressful, and begin to tax your own health and well-being. Self-care is one way to alleviate caregiving stress and avoid burnout.
This post is for caregivers. It will outline a few ways that you can replenish your energy and practice self-care with limited time, space, energy, and resources, for free. You’re worthy of care, and you’ve earned it.
If these ideas won’t work for you and you don’t have other options, another form of self-care is simply to be kind to yourself. Caregiving is hard, especially right now. Have compassion for yourself in difficult moments, and remind yourself that you’re doing your best.
Self-Care Tips for Caregivers
As caregivers, your time is precious. Here are some tips for self-care that can be done on-the-go, in brief moments, or in the space around you.
- Try minute mindfulness
Even quick moments of meditation and mindfulness can help clear the mind and recharge your energy. Take a moment and focus on your breath. Call your energy back to your body. Breathe out any stress you have absorbed.
- Treat your senses to some self-care
Light a scented candle. Put out some flowers, or wear a pair of comfy slippers. You may be extremely busy, but you can make the living space around you a nurturing space.
- Try self-care on-the-go
Listen to some of your favorite music to lighten your mood, or choose a favorite audiobook. The Free Library has a large selection of audio downloads and streaming available for free with your library card.
Caregiving often requires sharing your space with others. This can mean that living space is tight. Here are some tips for self-care when you have limited private space.
- Take advantage of the private moments that are built into your day
Consider shower or bath rituals that soothe your spirit, relax your body, and indulge your senses. Everyone might have to adjust their schedules a bit, but you are worthy of some me-time.
- Make opportunities for privacy in shared spaces
Create a blanket tent for children or a curtained corner for yourself to decompress. Step outside for just a moment and breathe.
- Try including others into your self-care
GoNoodle is a free app that has mindfulness and yoga for children. Seniors may enjoy activities like sensory play with textured surfaces, sorting, or coloring with crayons. Try an in-home dance break for the whole family. See if you can find self-care activities that everyone can do.
- Stay open to unscheduled me-time
Do not let an unseasonably beautiful day pass without spending some time outdoors. If someone offers to give you private time and space to yourself, take it. Seize any spontaneous opportunities for self-care. You are worth it.
Caregiving is hard work and takes a lot of energy. Here are some tips for recharging your battery.
- Practice self-reflection
Recharging can be as simple as a mantra, a quick mediation, or taking a deep breath. Pay attention to yourself and when you start to feel drained or overwhelmed. Take a moment when you need it.
- Treat your nightly rest as self-care
Sleep is a primary method of recharging. Do what you can to improve your sleep. Get a comfortable pillow and bedding, use an eyemask to block out light, use a free filter app to avoid blue light from screens. Establish a sleep schedule and routine. If your sleep is interrupted, try to find time for a short midday nap. To help relax your mind for sleep, the Free Library has several audio downloads of guided sleep meditations.
- Accept help when it is offered
Caregivers often struggle with accepting care. Remember that you are only one person, and that you deserve care and rest. If someone offers to lend a hand, take it. Don’t needlessly face the burdens of life alone.
When the Budget is Tight
The reality of caregiving is that it requires not only time and effort but also money, and it may interfere with the caregivers’ ability to be employed. Here are some tips for self-care on a tight budget.
- Try light exercise
Go for walks on nice days. Find a short exercise video on YouTube. Do some active play with your children. Dance around to your favorite music, alone or together. Exercise fights depression, boosts your mood and immune system, and improves your health. It is going to make you feel better, and it can be done for free.
- Treat yourself to some free entertainment
The Free Library has movies, television series, music, books, ebooks, and audiobooks for your enjoyment in our vast catalog. IMDbTV offers free movies and television series. Comedy helps relieve stress, and it's good for your health and well-being, and so find something that makes you laugh for an added boost.
- Take advantage of free events
Continue to follow health department recommendations, but when you can safely enjoy a free event, do so. The Free Library’s blog and events calendar are great places to learn about upcoming free events. So, keep reading!
Sometimes, caregivers need extra support, and finding it is a form of self-care. Below are some resources you may find helpful.
- If you or a loved one are in emotional crisis, in physical danger, or thinking of suicide, it is time for immediate support. Find a crisis line and call right away, or as soon as you can do so safely.
- Mental Health Resources: For mental health resources and support, visit healthymindsphilly.org. Explore mental and physical health resources from the City of Philadelphia and Philadelphia School District. Find resources for families coping with mental illness at namiphilly.org. Contact one of these organizations to find an online support group for caregivers in your area.
- If caregiving is your full-time occupation or makes it difficult to be employed, apply to be a paid caregiver for your loved one. Learn how from the PA Department of Aging or care.com.
Thank you for your essential work during these challenging times. Happy National Caregivers' Day!
Thanks to LEAP Youth Advocate Bryan Belknap for his contributions to this blog post.