Most of us know we can’t pour from an empty cup, but sometimes refilling is easier said than done, especially for caregivers. With so many time pressures, it can be tempting to put off self-care until later. At the risk of this “later” becoming indefinite, here are 10 ways to pour a refill into your own mug.
- Move your body
- Breathe deeply with yoga and meditation
- Savor a delicacy
- Enjoy a cup
- Go out and discover nature
- Express yourself through art
- To sing!
- have someone to talk to
- Access to respite
- Make time for a favorite activity (guilt-free)
Movement and meditation
Caregivers who don’t prioritize their own health care and mental health end up risking both. Fortunately, regular exercise goes a long way in protecting physical and psychological well-being. So walk, run, bike, dance, go to the gym or whatever inspired it’s up to you to move your body!
Yoga and meditation have long been praised for their stress-busting powers and ability to restore balance and inner peace. Best of all, anyone can practice at some level – advanced poses aren’t necessary to reap the benefits. Certified Yoga Instructor and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Natalie Nevins elaborate:
“Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calm; increases body awareness; relieves chronic stress patterns; relaxes the mind; center the attention; and sharpens concentration.
If that’s not reason enough to lay out the yoga mat, a study on the effects of an eight-week yoga and meditation program for caregivers of a family member with Alzheimer’s disease found marked reductions in reported anxiety, stress, and depression, as well as noticeably lower cortisol levels.
While it can be difficult for caregivers to fit quiet time for meditation into an already busy day, consider waking up 30 minutes earlier to stretch and move your body. Your own cup will feel fuller for the rest of the day.
Quick tips for self-care
Sneak into fast refills every day with short breaks consisting of small but meaningful acts of self-care. A quick way is to fill a real cup with coffee, tea or other hot beverage. Drinks meant to be sipped will force you to slow down long enough to enjoy the ritual and excite your senses. Just be sure to sit down and enjoy this drink while it’s still hot! If you’re feeling guilty, remember that coffee and tea have been linked to many health benefits.
There’s a reason many people turn to comfort food during times of stress: food has the power to impact our moods. While the importance of a healthy, balanced diet cannot be overstated, part of finding balance is knowing that it’s okay to indulge in a tasty treat once in a while. Stay reasonable, of course, and always follow your doctor’s instructions when choosing your indulgence.
“I think it’s crucial for a healthy lifestyle to have a little treat every day,” explained Brigitte Zeitlin, dietician, in a article why she loves dessert everyday.
Whether it’s strolling down a tree-lined street or going deep into the forest, exposure to nature can also help caregivers relieve stress and depression. There are plenty of ways to take care of yourself outdoors, even if you don’t have a lot of time to do it. Unplug from social media and turn off podcasts to be fully present and watch the sunset from your back porch. Lie down under a tree in your garden and stare at the leaves of its canopy for a few minutes. Feel the grass between your toes.
Speaking up is an important form of self-care. It has been shown that artistic creation reduce cortisol levels in patients who have used it as therapy. A number of forms of artistic expression can help caregivers fill their cups, including painting, drawing, making a collage, crocheting, coloring, taking photos and more. Logging is another creative outlet.
Singing can also lower cortisol levels, among a variety of others. advantages. Of course, for most people, that doesn’t mean jumping on stage or picking up a karaoke mic; the key is to sing where it’s comfortable. If you’re afraid to thrive, try doing it in the shower or in the car between errands. Choirs – which provide a sense of community and belonging – are a great choice for caregivers who are comfortable singing in groups.
The importance of expressing yourself with others cannot be overstated. Consider speaking with a therapist or join a support group where it’s safe to share your joys and frustrations around caregiving. Being able to fully express yourself and your feelings is an important part of keeping your cup full.
Access to respite
To prevent caregiver burnout asking for help before caregiving becomes overwhelming. By scheduling regular breaks and prioritizing your own cup, the family member you care for will benefit from a happier, healthier caregiver. In addition to your personal support system, don’t be afraid to access community services. Adult child care centers can provide valuable respite, as can hired home help. Moreover, the Family Caregiver Support Program may be able to help pay for respite services.
Make time for a favorite activity (guilt-free)
Just like you wouldn’t try to put someone else oxygen mask for them before you put yours in, you can’t pour into someone else’s cup from an empty cup. While small daily gestures of self-care can go a long way, our cups seem to empty faster when we go a long time without doing the things we love. And yet, some of the first sacrifices caregivers make are often the activities that give them the most pleasure.
Some of the first sacrifices caregivers make are often the activities that give them the most pleasure.
It’s not easy, but making time for your favorite activities is very beneficial for you and your loved one. A healthy life balance includes having fun and is imperative for good mental health. Trying to pour from an empty cup inevitably leads to burnout – reason enough to devote time to your favorite hobby.
Dr. Marlynn Wei, MD, perhaps said it best when she wrote“You may even feel guilty or selfish for paying attention to your own needs. What you need to know is this: in fact, the practice of self-care helps the caregiver to stay more balanced, focused and efficient, which that helps everyone involved.”