One of the biggest challenges we face when we’re actively taking care of someone is finding ways, amidst the enormity of this task, to take care of ourselves. I can recall a period of time when I was helping support my mother through her final stages of cancer, while also caring for my two toddlers. When I’d hear people talk about taking time for workouts at the gym, or yoga classes, or trips to the spa—a part of me would feel happy for them, but another part of me would want to slug them out of jealousy and exhaustion.

It’s difficult when the forms of self-care we’ve come to know and love are stripped away as possibilities. I’ve learned, though, that by bringing flexibility to the table, often self-care is still possible—we just have to become more creative in how we make it happen. It helps considerably if we’re willing to engage in mini-doses of the activities we enjoy. There might not be time for an hour walk, but a fifteen minute walk around the block is worth something—as are two minutes of stretching, or ten minutes of napping, or thirty seconds of prayer. When we’re actively offering care, our self-care efforts may need to shrink down to appetizer portions, and yet engaging in these activities in small doses is far better than not engaging in them at all.

There are also gifts that come from learning to adjust and adapt to our circumstances without giving up on our care altogether. When I think back to my experience of active caregiving, I’m aware that I gained more flexibility during those months than across the rest of the 22 years I’ve practiced yoga. And it seems this was an especially important sort of flexibility, in the larger perspective of my life.

Karen Horneffer-Ginter has been practicing psychology and teaching yoga and contemplative practices for over 16 years. She has also taught graduate students and health care professionals, along with directing a university-based holistic health care program, and co-founding the Center for Psychotherapy and Wellness in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The aim of Karen's work is to reconnect people with the wisdom of their inner-life by reclaiming what gets lost amidst the busyness of day-to-day life: qualities such as stillness, self-care, creativity, joy, humor, gratitude, and compassion. Her intention is to support people in finding a sense of balance and sacredness in their lives.

Related Articles



When Carolita Johnson became a live-in caretaker for her 87-year-old mother, reimagining this new life as a multi-year writing residency helped her...

Being a Human Being

Being a Human Being

"Many of us are programmed to take action. We want to fix. We want to solve. And we take pride in fixing and solving. But sometimes there is nothing...

Popular categories

After Caregiving
Finding Meaning
Finding Support

Don't see what you're looking for? Search the library

Share your thoughts


Share your thoughts and experiences

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Join our communities

Whenever you want to talk, there’s always someone up in one of our Facebook communities.

These private Facebook groups are a space for support and encouragement — or getting it off your chest.

Join our newsletter

Thoughts on care work from Cori, our director, that hit your inbox each Monday morning (more-or-less).

There are no grand solutions, but there are countless little ways to make our lives better.

Share your insights

Caregivers have wisdom and experience to share. Researchers, product developers, and members of the media are eager to understand the nature of care work and make a difference.

We have a group specifically to connect you so we can bring about change.