SELF CARE FOR CARERS

 

By Rachel James*

 
 

Self care can be 5 minutes with a cup of tea or a date with the hairdresser. Either way, we need to spend a moment on ourselves to ensure we are robust and healthy to meet the demands of our varied roles. Go on – put your feet up!

 

Let’s talk self care…

Rachel James and her daughter Emily

Rachel James and her daughter Emily

Self care is an important part of everyone’s schedule but especially a carers. It is important to be fit, healthy and rested in order to meet the needs of others. I’ve listed some short points addressing self care and how to prioritise time in the day!

Be self-aware

  • Be aware of your own needs, limits, emotions and resources.
  • Be aware of what you’re good and not so good at so you know your strengths. 
  • Remember to connect with yourself as well as to others. 

Finding a healthy balance in life may require help

  • We all need to find a balance between work, caring and resting.
  • Asking for help when you need it  – is not failing – it’s coping!

Take a structured approach

  • Make self care a routine not an infrequent occurrence.
  • Create a time and space that encourages self care. My exercise regime is booked into my day – early in the morning before I’m needed at home.

The dangers – If self care is overlooked

  • We can all suffer from compassionate fatigue leading to irritable or cranky behaviour.
  • Stress is part of our world especially if your lifestyle has been reshaped by a caring role. Reducing stress and implementing self care are pivotal to coping longterm.
  • Carer’s are most at risk from burnout because they care, on many levels.

Self Care  – Physical Suggestions

  • Refuel – Remember to eat and drink (water) regularly.
  • Write a note to stop circling thoughts or help you plan some daily/weekly strategies.
  • Share your feelings – Ask a friend to listen for 10 mins.
  • Ask for a comforting hug from loved ones.
  • Exercise because you enjoy it not because you feel you should.
  • Create simple healing spaces and pleasures.  Gardening is my simple pleasure

Self Care – Positive Thinking Suggestions

  • Positive thinking = I am not perfect but I’m perfectly fine.
  • Positive thinking = My needs count too.
  • Remember to treat yourself kindly, treat yourself with compassion.
  • Develop realistic expectations of yourself and your caring capabilities.
  • Vent your emotions constructively so that feelings are aired not left to spoil a relationship. 
  • Visualise a safe and nurturing place and visit it regularly in your mind. I visit a seascape (in my mind) which gives me a sense of peace through the memory of that day at the beach.

Self Care – Community Suggestions

  • Gather kindred spirits – groups, clubs and supports.
  • Connect to your community.
  • Start a self care support group, i.e a quilting group!
  • Share coping strategies.
  • Confirm positive experiences.

Finally – Self care can be about learning to say “No” 
Don’t over commit yourself .Say “Yes” to things you can manage and enjoy.

Rachel James is a registered nurse living in Sydney. Rachel became an everyday carer to her eldest daughter Emily following a horrific snowboarding accident. In her blog and book, Suddenly an Everyday Carer, Rachel writes about tackling and coping with change, caring in the home, and family life after spinal cord injury.