Caregivers are notorious for not taking care of themselves. We can get into the mode of feeling that everything has to be done for our loved ones or clients at the expense of our own well-being. Many of us have heard the example of needing to put the oxygen on yourself first and then your child or spouse when a plane is in distress. If we pass out, how are we going to be helpful to our partner?
A simple example, but with a very powerful message. We can only do so much if we’re running on empty. Taking care of ourselves, if for no other reason, really is supportive of the person we are caring for. When they see us tired, not sleeping or eating right, being cranky and maybe tearful they can feel guilty. They can feel like it’s their fault that you are so run down. I can remember as a hospice nurse talking with dying people who were so worried about their caregivers at the present but also how they were going to survive after the death.
Self care is the sensible unselfish support we need to create for ourselves. Then we can more joyfully be present and helpful for our loved ones and clients. Sleeping and eating well, getting exercise, spending some quality time and creative pursuits are a few ways to take care of ourselves. One way you may not have thought of is how we talk to ourselves. Our thoughts are constantly with us and if they are negative and destructive they keep us from being mentally and physically well. Being aware of self-criticism and negative perspectives can alert us to using some simple techniques that can be more useful. Stop right now and ask yourself how you speak to yourself and about yourself. Would you say the same things to your best friend? Probably not. Luckily certain kinds of therapies have shown that changing behaviors can change the way we think and feel about ourselves.
Compassion for ourselves is not only constructive and nourishing but it’s possible. Here are three ways to nurture your caring self.
Self kindness means being aware of when we are judging ourselves harshly and probably inappropriately.
A sense of common humanity instead of feeling isolated is helpful as well. Many of us when we are feeling fearful or sad feel like we’re the only ones that have these lows. Feelings of suffering and inadequacy are human. Knowing that you’re not alone can be a real comfort
Separate that inner voice and imagine that someone from outside your head is talking to you. That way the words can be kinder than your own thoughts may provide.