Enjoy A Nothing Day—Self-Care for Caregivers
rocking chair

Every morning a paid caregiver comes to our home to help get my disabled husband up for the day. Although caregivers can change, one caregiver comes most often, and we love her. What are you doing today?” she asked as she walked in the door.

“Nothing,” I answered. A puzzled expression came across her face. An experienced caregiver, she knows caregivers have never-ending task lists, and there’s always something to do. “I’ll do my caregiving tasks,” I continued, “and that’s it.”

The idea of a Nothing Day came to me during the holidays when I was rushing around. Although I average seven hours of sleep a night, I was still tired, and my arthritic hips were giving me trouble. Doing nothing—a day of rest—sounded very appealing. What might the day be like?

I wouldn’t go to the grocery store. I wouldn’t prepare future meals and freeze them. I wouldn’t do five loads of laundry. I wouldn’t dust or vacuum. I wouldn’t sort mail or pay bills. I wouldn’t do any heavy lifting. And I wouldn’t worry about our messy garage. This is my 19th year of caregiving, and I can tell when I need to slow down and rest for a while. Other caregivers have come to the same conclusion.

In The Caregiving Wife’s Handbook, Diana B. Denholm devotes a chapter to “dos” and “don’ts.” She asks caregivers to take a respite. “Do create a chance of pace for yourself one day or night a week,” she advises. Gail Sheehy, in her book, Passages in Caregiving, offers similar advice. “Whenever you feel overwhelmed by caregiving responsibilities, take time out to sit still and breathe calmly and deeply for at least ten minutes,” she writes.

I’ve followed her advice.  Instead of deep breathing, I practice diaphragm breathing, a skill you may wish to learn and perfect.

My first Nothing Day was a huge success. Lunch was leftover bacon quiche and winter fruit salad from Christmas brunch. Dinner was French dip sandwiches and salad, leftover from a previous dinner. I did one load of laundry (my husband’s clothes) and left the rest for the another day. I read some Christmas magazines. I watched holiday programs on television. I sat in a rocking chair and meditated. I posted a video of me reading an excerpt from my affirmations book for caregivers on YouTube, something I’ve wanted to do for weeks. But the most beneficial thing I did was to take an hour and a half nap.

Of course a Nothing Day isn’t a blank day, and essential caregiving tasks still need to get done. Yet days like these force us to practice self-care. We can rest our bodies and our minds. In quiet, restful moments we rediscover ourselves and rekindle creativeness. A Nothing Day is really an everything day, time to think about life, assess our caregiving, and take credit for all we do.

From now on, I’m going schedule Nothing Days, and hope you will do the same. Write Nothing Day on your calendar now!

Written by Harriet Hodgson
Rochester resident Harriet Hodgson has been a freelance writer for writing for 38 years, is the author of thousands of articles, and 36 books. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Minnesota Coalition for Death Education and Support. She is also a contributing writer for The Caregiver Space website, Open to Hope Foundation website, and The Grief Toolbox website. Harriet has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. A popular speaker, Harriet has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, caregiving, and bereavement conferences. Her work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. All of Harriet’s work comes from her life. She is now in her 19th year of caregiving and cares for her disabled husband, John. For more information about this busy author, grandmother, wife, and caregiver please visit www.harriethodgson.com

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  1. Try 6 months off, after caregiver burn out. Do it now, or end up looney, like me!

  2. This is something I think about all the time. What would I do with a day to myself?

    • That’s my daydream, too!! Or even just a couple of hours to myself!

  3. We lose ourselves thru caregiving. No one realizes the toll it takes on us. It’s an everyday…24/7 job.

  4. I call working in a school office my respite but we also take 1 day a week through summer to go to the coast and anjoy trying new restaurants. My husband is amazing with my dad who has mid stages of Alzheimers and lives with us. My mom was his caregiver but could not/would not give herself time or care….she died too soon.

    • Fortunately dad planned ahead and we can hire outside help. Another lesson learned….save for the long term so our kids/we can have options for staying home. We have done that….

  5. Where do u pick those so i can go get myself some

  6. 23 yrs. Please one day off does zilch if you’re already sick and burned out.

  7. We all need a “nothing day” once in a while.

  8. that would be nice, it’s been 11yrs for me and my health has never been worse. my spirit is almost dead and we can barely make the bills. my 88 yrs old mother is very self-centered and wont do a thing for herself. this is not a life, I feel helpless to better my situation.

  9. Because you deserve it!!

  10. My nothing days starred when I could just barely do my caregiving tasks and then crash. I began being more thoughtful and planned Thoughtful Moments. Such as lunch at the sandwich place once in a while when I had errands.

  11. I read in between caregiving adult colouring books n music helps to n walking on thread mill 🙂

  12. I have been trying to do this at least once a week, it really helps.

  13. There never is a nothing day, because if you do happen to get out you are wondering what is going on and making phone calls. Then panic when no one answers the phone.

  14. Wish I could afford a pedicure

  15. Carolyn Prince Lambert. You need a down do nothing day.

  16. No help from family but I do have Hospice 2 days a week to help with sponge baths n changing bedding. But that’s it! It’s me n only me 24/7

  17. I used to feel guilty when I would bring in a paid caregiver if I didn’t have any plans. Like it was a waste of money. Then one day my plans got canceled, but I kept her anyway. That was an eye opener. I sat in my pajamas all day, had a peaceful lunch, took a nap, and enjoyed a shower that was longer than two minutes. I haven’t felt guilty about those days since. Well worth the expense If you can swing it.

  18. Just booked a day next week in my diary…
    Nothing day…looks good but wonder how much time I will get by the end of the day.
    Good article though x

  19. 6yrs later 24/7, I hope and pray everyday for just 1 day just 1 all to myself.

  20. When you get to its good. Boring but good.


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