Mastering Self Care While Caring for Others
By: American Nurses Association
As a caregiver, you constantly focus on the needs of your charge. You are concerned for their health, their eating habits, their sleep patterns, and more. With your focus so strongly on those you’re caring for, it can be easy to accidentally neglect your own needs, always putting others first. But as any professional knows, it is important to care for yourself and refuel your energy in order to continue to provide the best care. If you are a caregiver, consider moving self care up on your list of priorities as a way to ensure that your patients receive the best care possible from you.
Tips for Mastering Self Care
Listen to Your Body
Before tackling your to-do list for the day, consider listening to your body and giving it what it is asking for first. Whether it’s an invigorating walk to get your blood pumping, a hydrating cup of tea, or a refreshing 20 minute nap, chances are the rest of your to-do list will be accomplished in a more efficient and happy way if you are approaching it fully charged. Think of it as powering up your engines so you can accomplish more with greater ease.
Appreciate and Express your Emotions
Emotions can run high in the caregiving career. Often, you can’t help but become emotionally attached to patients you work with so intimately. Also, a consistent sense of urgency often surrounds those who are sick or in need of support, and it can wear down the nerves. Remember that when emotions are not expressed in times of stress, they can be felt later and cause challenges if ignored. It is important to let yourself not only feel these emotions at a time that is suitable, but also to process them. Investing time in journaling, a spiritual practice, or a safe place to vent (we recommend a licensed therapist or positive, trustworthy friend!) are all great practices for a healthy emotional balance.
Disconnect and Play
Taking time to let yourself do something other than caregiving can be extremely therapeutic to your emotions, mind, and nervous system. Try out a new hobby, escape into a motivating audiobook, or try your hand at gardening. Allow yourself to take your time while preparing a favorite home cooked meal and savor the simple act preparing healthy nourishment for your hardworking body.
The more balanced and recharged you are, the better you will feel, and the better you’ll be able to care for others. Remember that self-care is not “selfish”, but rather, a vital part of operating at peak efficiency for all.
If you feel concerned that the stresses of caregiving may be taking a toll, remember that your workplace has support systems in place such as your manager, staff in the HR department, and may also include additional benefits, such as free therapy sessions available through your insurance. There are also other resources available online in the form of educational tools like ANA’s COVID-19 Self-Recovery Package for Nurses (Free for ANA Members). In this package, ANA has handpicked a package of courses to help when you and your team reach the recovery stage.
When you are caring for others, remember that it can be a daunting and draining task. It is both ok, and important to utilize additional tools and resources to help keep you in prime shape – physically, mentally and emotionally. Remember, caring for yourself also helps to provide the best care possible for your patients and all others in your life who depend on you!