Slow assisted walks.
A laundry list of things to do.
These are just a few of the things that first come to mind when I think of being a caretaker.
If you watch my Instagram stories or have spoken with me lately, you’d know that someone I love ended up in the hospital unexpectedly on Tuesday night. As terrifying as it was, it was also a sense of relief and gratitude knowing that she was alive and able to return home. However, a few days later, I realized myself sinking deeper and deeper into a funk. Physically, my body was exhausted, mentally, I felt burnt out, and spiritually I felt drained. I didn’t want to eat, all I wanted to do was sleep and work felt like an impossible task. I knew I had to do something, but something just felt too hard.
Then someone asked me if I did yoga that day. Initially, it felt like a really silly question, but then I found myself laughing. I realized I hadn’t done yoga or danced since Monday, before leaving San Diego. After being reminded that both were where I find my peace, joy and freedom, I realized that in the midst of taking care of someone else, I stopped taking care of myself. As hard as it may be to understand, when being a caretaker, you MUST put your self-care first—period. That doesn’t mean you won’t be uncomfortable or make sacrifices, but it does mean you will make your well-being a priority as well.
Though it may sound selfish to you at first, it might just be one of the most selfless things you can do for your loved one. The way I see it, the better I take care of myself, the better care I can provide. So to help you stay a strong caretaker, here’s a list of 8 tips I’ve compiled and wish someone told me more, especially 8 years ago while my dad was still in his fight with cancer (may he Rest In Peace).
1. Cry. You are allowed to cry. Of course you don’t have to do it all the time, but you may need to do it sometime. That release is good and healthy. As someone who has dealt heavily with depression and emotional numbness, it is a blessing to be able to feel so deeply and release those feelings. Crying doesn’t make you weak, it allows you to be strong.
2. Eat regularly. I definitely get how easy it is to get caught up in the day to day chaos, or numerous tasks to remember. But I promise, you’re more likely to be at your best when you’re not hangry, lightheaded or even physically weak. If you know you’re going to be out & about a lot, especially at doctors visits/hospitals, pack healthy, energizing snacks that you can munch on until your next meal (& meal prep if possible!)
3. Drink lots of water. If you’re busy constantly moving about, I understand how easy it is to forget to drink water. But with all of the stress, the last thing you need to do is get dehydrated. Aim for your gallon of water a day, infuse it with fruit if you need to (especially lemon, which is great for detoxing) but stay hydrated! Especially if you find yourself drinking even more cups of coffee a day to stay awake, it’s probably a good idea to drink more water. Besides, your hair and skin will thank you!
4. Wash your hair. It may sound silly, but my hair is the first to show me how I’m really doing. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, it gets dry and even starts falling out (especially when I haven’t been drinking as much water!) Doing my hair sometimes seems like such a small thing, but once it’s detangled, freshly washed and smells good, I suddenly feel a little lighter, less frustrated and can think more clearly.
5. Say “NO.” No is not a bad word! Especially when you’re busy taking care of someone else, it’s easy to start feeling bad about missing out on things/events. However, sometimes you simply can’t make it, can’t afford it or really just need to REST. (*This actually applies to everyone, not just caretakers.) But true friends & family, will indeed understand and get over it. Remember, self-care must come first. Listen to your mind, body, and spirit.
6. Ask for help. Quite possibly the most important one on the list! As a caretaker, especially the primary one, it is super easy to become overwhelmed and feel like all of the responsibility falls on you. But it’s okay to ask for help! A lot of the time, people do actually want to help, but don’t know how. So be vocal about your needs and what the person you’re caring for needs. If you need a break/a nap, money, food, someone to cook, transportation, a hug, prayer, or simply someone to listen— speak up. Let someone know because you don’t have to do it all alone, even if you are superman/superwoman.
7. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep! You must sleep, and not just 2 minute naps (although those can come in real clutch sometimes!) Sleep isn’t just for our bodies, it’s for our minds to rest and reset so that all of the worries & responsibilities of the day can take a break. That way we can wake up rejuvenated, with clarity and more energy to take on the way.
8. Engage in small “rebellious” but necessary acts of self-love. Dance, sing, run, do yoga, meditate, use a face mask, do your nails, change your sheets, make a new playlist, talk on the phone, go for a walk, leave the house, journal, light a candle, eat something really yummy, read something new, watch something new (YouTube/Netflix/ sermon/TV), listen to a podcast, pray, etc. These all may seem small at first, but together they can make such a difference. So switch it up if you had to, but sprinkling these acts of self-care throughout the day help make for a happier, healthier caretaker, which will ultimately make for a happier, better cared for loved one.
I hope this helps! Any more tips? Feel free to comment below and add on to this list! Did you find this helpful? Let me know! Should I go LIVE to chat about it? If you have any questions, feel free to drop them below! If this was helpful for you, or you think it could help someone you know, please share!