Self Care for the Caregiver – releasing the guilt and putting on your mask first
cabin oxygen mask drop from the cabin ceiling

It is only a few weeks into the New Year and you may have made resolutions for yourself. So many people resolve to lose a few pounds, workout more, and eat healthier.  All wonderful resolutions and at times can be difficult to maintain for the average person, let alone the caregiver.

Let’s face it, who doesn’t live a busy life with possibly too many commitments and family members counting on us for various things. Whether you are a parent, grandparent, you work a full-time job or fully retired, we all have our list of things that need to be accomplished every day or weekly.  

If you are a caregiver, the list may not truly be your own, as at times your needs and wishes may need to come slightly lower on the list, after caring for your loved one. True?  Well, possibly but maybe not as black and white as you may think.

As a caregiver, you are taking care of the needs of your loved one in addition to your own. Does that mean that your needs are any less important? Absolutely not, and in fact it is quite the opposite. It is vital that we, as caregivers, take very good care of ourselves and our health. Our loved ones depend on it.  Too many caregivers feel a sense of guilt when they need a short break to get to the gym or go for a walk around the block. They feel as if they are letting their loved on down, and may be needed. The truth of the matter is, your loved one needs you to go out and take care of yourself, to keep healthy and relieve any stress that you may be holding.

I am a full-time caregiver for my loved one, in addition to running a business full time. So technically I hold two full time jobs. Initially, I was feeling some guilt if I needed a break to go to the gym or simply take a long walk. It is natural for a caregiver to put themselves last, however the consequences of caregiver stress are quite serious. 60% of caregivers reported poor health (more than double non-caregivers) and 45% of caregivers report serious health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and arthritis (again this is nearly double those who are not caregivers).

Reducing stress is not just suggested for caregivers, it is essential.  You need to do this for you and for your loved one.  So what are some of the changes you can make this New Year?

  • Get help where you can and stop trying to do it all yourself. Reach out to friends, family or your church if you belong to one.
    • Get help where you can outside of caring for your loved one – if you can hire someone to come in and do heavy cleaning, laundry, etc. If you can’t financially afford a cleaning person, maybe a “mothers helper” which would be slightly more affordable.
  • Take some time for yourself every single day
    1. Exercise or take a walk
    2. Meditation or prayer
    3. Read a book or magazine
    4. Call a friend or better yet, meet for a coffee

The bottom line is very simple, you need to find small and manageable ways to make time for yourself. The analogy that I like to use with my own clients is the oxygen mask on the airplane. If you don’t put your own mask on first, you certainly won’t be able to help those around you who may need your help. There is no guilt in that!  Just keep reminding yourself that small changes lead to larger and lasting results.

Michelle Skimmons is a health and wellness coach dedicated to working with each client in order to help them reach their personal goals. Michelle received her training from The Health Coach Institute where she was trained in dietary theories and practical lifestyle management techniques. Through private and group sessions, we will implement small lifestyle changes that makes sense to your life, in an effort to reach your desired results.

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18 Comments

  1. It is important. But the problem is time. Anyone willing to give me time to myself? Nope. Notta

    Reply
  2. Speaking from experience … i tried, it doesn’t work

    Reply
  3. In reality some caregivers die before the one they are taking care of. it is very important to take care of yourself and it’s a balancing act i know i have some health issues now that i have neglected taking care of my mom for 7 yrs .

    Reply
  4. Haha your funny

    Reply
  5. I am so sorry, I understand.

    Reply
  6. My 80 year old mom had hip replacement surgery and came directly home. Refused assisted living. My 83 year old father with congestive heart condition is also an alcoholic. I’ve worked most of my life to get away from this and now I’m here. He’s passed out after a night of yelling and keeping everyone up . Takes mom 20 minutes to walk down a two foot hallway. I haven’t had time for a shower in three days!

    Reply
  7. The person I am taking care of feels that my needs are not important at all. They are a narcissistic person who feels the world needs to revolve around her. That person is my Mother. She will be 93 next month and I think I will be lucky if I make it to my 50th birthday in July. I am an only child and a late in life child for my parents. Dad committed suicide over 21 years ago and I think he really did it to get away from her.

    Reply
    • Praying for your health, strength and peace of mind…

      Reply
    • Thank you!!! I have been taking care of her for 21 years and now full time for 7 years.

      Reply
    • Cara I am praying for you! That makes it so much tougher, have you considered talking to a social worker or aging foundation to see if you can get some additional help? Praying

      Reply
    • Good luck Cara, try to hang tough. I’m taking care of my mom, and it’s usually what she wants, when she wants and is not open to change of any type. As far as getting additional help, I’ve contacted every agency, there is little help. She will be released from rehab next week. Arrangements, referrals made to a nursing group, however, according to a social worker today, they are not going to guarantee that any one will show up.

      Reply
    • Cara Larch Wells praying for you .. it’s rough

      Reply
    • Thank you all. My Mom refuses to accept outside help of any kind. She will be 93 next month and still lives alone in her big house I grew up in. So I am trying to manage 2 households and all the yard work plus 3 pieces of commercial properties that are all rented out. With physical therapy, doctor visits for several specialists last year she had 72 appointments. This doesn’t include going shopping, grocery shopping or the attorneys office. And I don’t get paid either. Gave up teaching in 2012 because I couldn’t handle all of it. Our family has been barely getting by on one income. Plus I had to go through spinal fusion surgery in 2015. Was told 6 weeks down time, I got 2 weeks is all. Right now trying to get her in with a geriatric doctor and have them say she needs to go to a senior living facility. She has told me she will fight whoever tries to make her go by hiring an attorney but good luck because I refuse to take her to one.

      Reply
  8. Not less important but moment to moment your loved one must come first most times.. it’s just the way it is ..
    put yourself in a loved ones place and imagine what it’s like for them too ..
    When they cannot help themselves…
    God Bless caregivers and their loved ones

    Reply
    • I understand what you are saying and my loved one always comes first, but not to the detriment of my own health
      The first year of caregiving, I didn’t get to the gym, dentist or doctor for myself. If you don’t care for yourself you will not be able to care for them!

      Reply
    • Michelle Skimmons yes very true Michelle .. we kind of learn how to juggle everything as we go along .. I got Mobile Physician for my husband as he became homebound and I was able to have mobile doctors too ..
      that helped me get timely checkups , bloodwork, EKGs etc at home ..
      I also learned many exercises from the therapists that I do everyday ..

      I designed a regimen of healthy changes for myself ..
      It took years for me to get this all together as my hubby had constant very serious health issues for 10 years ..
      Sadly he passed away this past October after 56 years of marriage..
      I miss everything about him and I’m taking it one day at a time .. it’s hard very hard ❤️

      Reply
    • Theresa Marie Loder I am so very sorry for your loss and 56 Years is so very wonderful
      He was blessed to have you, just as you were blessed to have him
      One day at a time and you are in my prayers

      Reply
    • Michelle Skimmons thank you

      Reply

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