You can’t take care of someone else if you’re not taking care of yourself. Most caregivers know this, but feel selfish when they try to implement this way of thinking. That should not be the case because not only will you suffer, but in turn, the person you are caring for will suffer as well. It sounds silly, but you almost have to remind yourself to be selfish sometimes.
It’s okay to think of yourself. It’s okay to go out and have fun. It’s okay to talk about the stresses of your caregiving duty. You are not a robot - you are human! When caring for a loved one, you need to ask yourself, what feels best for me? The better you feel, they better they will feel.
So, what should you do to care for yourself without feeling a sense of guilt?
1.) Take time for yourself - alone. Sometimes people just need a break. Taking the time to relax by yourself may be what you need to clear your mind, get reenergized, or just check out for a little bit. It’s okay to do that. (Remember, you’re not a robot.)
2.) Take charge. You can set rules or set a schedule that works for you. These new guidelines can benefit you and your lifestyle as well as the person you are caring for. Instead of molding your life around another person’s wants and needs, it’s okay to change a situation so it is beneficial to you as well.
3.) Include others. It doesn’t have to be you all the time. By letting other friends and family know you’d like a break or time to yourself, they can step in and give you that much needed “me” time. Remember, there is no shame in asking.
4.) Anticipate. In the world of caregiving, things change. They change for you as the caregiver and they change for the person you are caring for as well. If you plan ahead, you will be better prepared and less stressed. There is nothing selfish about thinking ahead for your own benefit. Remember, what benefits you is also good for your loved one.
5.) Get involved. This doesn’t mean for you to get involved with another person’s likes and dislikes. You need to get them involved in yours. If you enjoy reading mystery novels, then read them out loud to the person you are caring for. If you enjoy artwork, grab an extra paintbrush for your loved one. Instead of conforming to their wants and needs, involve them in yours. Who knows? They may love it too!