Support & Self Care Practices for Caretakers
Mothers, fathers, children, siblings, care workers, grandparents, and even friends – so many step up to take on the care of their loved ones, which can be both a loving act and also an extremely depleting and stressful undertaking over the long term.
At Richmond Natural Medicine, we see an enormous number of caretakers, each presenting with their own set of health challenges. It is never overlooked that the act of care-taking another has often played a major role in their long term health. Thus, it is extremely important for us to acknowledge that role, and make sure that the caretakers are, in fact, still taking time to care for themselves.
It is extremely common that most people devoted to the long term care of a loved one often put themselves last. They make sure everyone else is cared for (usually a never ending task) before they take the time to care for themselves. Over time, this not only compounds stress and exhaustion, but also emotional guilt associated with taking time for their own self care. This is where they can often use the most support: building up their reserves, focusing on their endocrine system and energy levels, and allowing themselves permission and time to devote to their own self care.
Here are a few tips that we encourage all caregivers to take part in. Even implementing just one can make a huge difference over the long term:
- Ask for help and be willing to accept it. If you feel like you’re overwhelmed and could use additional help – find someone to help out. Most people want to help, and either don’t know what to ask for, or don’t know how to step in without “overstepping”. Reach out and accept help when it is offered.
- Schedule time for yourself every day or every week that involves something that brings you JOY. Just 15 minutes of daily calm and joy can re-set your central nervous system from a state of overwhelm and stress into a state to emotional calm and stillness. The body desperately needs these breaks and it’s essential that you mark these self care breaks on your calendar every day in INK.
- Make and follow an iron clad wellness plan that includes strict boundaries. Learning how to say “No” is one of the hardest things for caretakers because, often, they’re the only ones available to do the work. Setting boundaries for yourself is essential to not burn out, and also keeps others from taking advantage of your time, energy and caring nature.
- Create a meditation or gratitude practice every morning and/or evening. Mentally check in with yourself first thing in the morning or right before bed and acknowledge 3 things you’re grateful for that day. Starting and ending the day with positivity sets the stage for a more positive day (or subconscious night).
- Socialize and get together with people outside of your “care network”. Usually caretakers are constantly talking about and answering questions about the people they’re caring for which is equally as exhausting and repetitive as the act of caregiving itself. Get together with people who want to talk about you or something outside of your responsibilities.
- Implement words of kindness and encouragement to yourself every time you look in a mirror. Remember to always give yourself credit and encouragement for the work that you do, and notice when thoughts of negativity or guilt sneak in. Banish them away with a simple mantra for yourself like, “I am well and good today”, or “I am doing good work today, and that is enough”.
- Write: Check in with yourself at least once a week and notice where you are feeling burnout or where you can use the most support. Write this down. Take care not to overwork this area of burnout, and revert back to your boundaries plan to reinforce this area.
- Exercise for 30 minutes, 3 times per week. Just the simple act of exercising – whether it be going to the gym, lifting weights, going for a jog or a walk – can make you feel more in control of your situation and your body, and doubles as an excellent stress reliever while supporting your bones, muscles and central nervous system the same time.
If you need additional support in creating a self care plan for yourself, schedule an appointment with us at Richmond Natural Medicine by contacting our office at (804) 977-2634. We’re all here to help create care plans to support any and every area of imbalance, and support you where you need it most.
About the Author:
Lindsay Kluge is a Clinical Herbalist & Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist and received her Masters of Science degree in Herbal Medicine from the Maryland University of Integrative Health in 2012. She has been with Richmond Natural Medicine since 2013, and specializes in therapeutic holistic nutrition, circadian rhythm balance and sleep physiology, digestion, and Ayurvedic nutrition. She offers individualized nutrition and herbal medicine consultations that include meal planning support, custom compounded herbal formulas, nutrition guidance and general wellness support. Learn more about services that Lindsay offers at Richmond Natural Medicine by clicking HERE.