As a caregiver, whether working as a professional in health care or in your private life, you might be giving a lot of advice, care and support to other people. But that often goes at the cost of your own self-care – you might be so busy caring for others that it leaves little space for your own physical and emotional health. Practicing self-care as a caregiver should actually be at the core of your work. It is vital to be strong, healthy and balanced if you are taking so much care of others! What can you do to take the advice that you give to others to your own heart?
High rates of burn-out among caregivers
Ironically, there is a high rate of burn-out and other stress-related health issues among caregivers. Helping others to work on their health and wellbeing doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a balanced lifestyle yourself. With the increasing pressure in today’s health care field, it is a challenge to maintain healthy habits, such as sufficient movement and relaxation. You probably know from you professional background that a healthy lifestyle is a very important foundation for your body and mind to function properly. However, you most likely know too that it is a challenge to stick to healthy habits, especially in a society in which working hard and being available 24/7 are the norm.
In addition, it is known that many caregivers have actually experienced mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, themselves at some point in their life. There is also a reason why you became a health care professional: maybe you like to help others, but maybe you are also a person who tends to please others or to put yourself in the last place. These are patterns that may put you at risk of developing mental health issues, if you are not aware of it. Therefore, it is very important to practice self-awareness and self-care in order to prevent problems.
Practice what you preach
It is often easier to give advice to others when it comes to health and wellbeing than to yourself. Why? Well, as every human being, the automatic patterns that you have (such as pleasing others, feeling responsible for everything, being a perfectionist) are not easy to change. The fact that these patterns are automatic, means that you are not always aware of your own behaviour and the learning experiences that have contributed to developing them.
And although you probably know this, applying this knowledge to your personal situation is still a challenge. You have to become aware of your own patterns and recognise your own needs. It takes effort and courage to acknowledge, at first, that you are a human being with basic needs, just like everyone else. Caregiver or not. When you can recognise your personal needs, the next challenge is to actually listen to the signals of your body and your emotions. How to do this is probably something that you share a lot with others, so practice what you preach! Start treating yourself like your clients or friends – what steps and strategies could you use to take care of these needs?
Daily self-care break
Photo by Sander van Iersel
A good way to become aware of your own patterns and to listen to your personal needs is to implement a daily self-care break. Take a moment every day and notice how you are feeling.
What is going on in your body, how does the breath feel, what is present in you mind?
What does this tell you about your own needs?
Taking such a mindful moment could already make you feel more rested and balanced in itself. You might also feel like expanding on this practice, by doing some relaxation or breathing exercises.
You could also think about incorporating more activities into your life that allow you to relax and recharge your energy, such as going outside, reading, doing something creative, anything that works for you.
If you feel you need more support, do not hesitate to seek help – isn’t that what you would recommend to others as well?
Allow yourself to learn and heal
Although it sounds super simple, I know from my personal experience that it is not. It takes time to integrate a solid self-care routine into your life. Allow yourself to take that time, and if that means you need to take a break from caregiving, allow yourself to do so. Allow yourself to heal and to learn, and remember that self-care allows you to remain more balanced, focused, and effective in anything else you do, including helping others.
If you have any specific questions or if you would like to talk about how to create your own self-care habits, feel free to contact me. I am always happy to help, just like you!