When you’re the caregiver, it can be overwhelmingly difficult to remember just how important it is to make time to care for yourself. Between meeting the demands of your career, managing your kids’ educations and potentially providing for your own parents or grandparents, you may find your needs falling to the very bottom or even completely off that ever-growing list of to-dos you tote around in your journal or smartphone. But, if you don’t step back and start prioritizing your own sanity and well-being, you may become physically and mentally worn down, resentful and even bitter, and when that happens, you won’t be much good to anyone. Here are some ways to help you take care of yourself in the midst of caring for others.
I don’t function well at all on too little sleep. I learned this quickly when my son was a newborn. I was chronically exhausted, which made me cranky and weepy and unable to think clearly. Once I realized my lack of sleep was affecting my entire family, I knew things had to change. I prioritized better sleep and before I knew it everyone in our home was happier. Figure out your ideal amount of night sleep–the number of hours you function best on–and make it happen at least five days a week. You will feel SO. MUCH. BETTER. which will allow you to better meet the needs of those you are responsible for.
Eat a well-balanced diet that energizes you. Oftentimes we can find ourselves so busy that we forget to eat and then we’re ready to crash before we’re even halfway through a hectic day. Make time to eat three meals a day and a healthy snack or two in between, so your body stays adequately fueled. One of the easiest ways to do this is to plan your meals and snacks ahead of time. If the healthy food is at the ready, you’ll have no reason not to make time for it. This will give your body the energy it needs, and you’ll also feel good knowing you are putting good things into your body. You may even notice your pants fitting a little looser. That said, a brownie or a glass of wine, may also work wonders for your state of mind.
Carve out time
Sometimes it seems like taking 30 minutes to relax is a complete waste of valuable time, but it’s not. That’s just the go, go, go, never-stop-going culture we live in getting the best of you. Just like your daughter deserves a ride to soccer practice or your mom deserves her weekly trip to the hairdresser, you deserve to have a hobby, you deserve to pamper yourself. When you find yourself with a spare chunk of time, forget about everything else and do something nice for yourself. If you can’t fathom ignoring those forms that need filling out, set a timer for 10 minutes, work on them and then use the rest of the time you have on something you’ll enjoy.
Remember what you like
Ever feel like YOU have been lost in the shuffle? I know I do. It’s easy to become completely consumed in what everyone else in your life is doing or needs done, to the point that one day you realize that you no longer remember the things that make you, you. If you find yourself unsure of what you like to do, completely unrelated to what you do with anyone else, it’s time to reevaluate. Think about the things that brought you joy before you were responsible for other people and decide whether you would still enjoy those things. If the answer is yes, make time for them. If the answer is no, start thinking about what interests you now and figure out how to incorporate them into your life. One day, the people who need you so much, won’t anymore, and you’ll need something to fill that void.