Like many people, I am a natural caregiver. I tend to put others first, even if that means putting my own needs on the backburner. It brings me extensive feelings of comfort and satisfaction knowing that those I love are fully taken care of. Now, although I technically could classify myself as the dictionary definition of a caregiver (having helped my father as he underwent chemotherapy), this post isn’t solely aimed for those that meet this criteria. Being a caregiver can mean so much more than just being someone’s physical aide. A caregiver can simply be someone who helps others before they help themselves.
In short, I am writing this for everyone out there who struggles with tending to their own needs and who may have a hard time caring for themselves when they know they have others to look after.
Mind you, these coping/self-care strategies are all things that I’m still trying to grasp myself. However, they seem to be working so far, so I hope we can all work through them together!
1. Set boundaries.
More so, become comfortable with the idea of saying “no.” It’s extremely important to acknowledge when you’re feeling uncomfortable, worn out, or even taken advantage of. As someone who spends a good portion of their time tending to those around them, it’s crucial to recognize when enough is enough. I’ve talked about this a great deal in some of my other blog posts (specifically, this guide to self-care), but once you’ve worked yourself to exhaustion, a break down is inevitable. So, try to prevent yourself from arriving at this state of defeat by learning to put your foot down when the time comes. You deserve more than to be walked all over.
2. Write down your needs.
It can be easy to make a mental note of our own wants and needs, but keeping them tucked away in our brains doesn’t give them any meaning. Instead, try to physically write out your needs on a piece of paper. This helps to bring them much-needed attention and recognition, and will gently force you to acknowledge the fact that your needs are real and completely valid. This moment of self-reflection can provide you with a checklist of feasible tasks to accomplish in order to fulfill your mental wellbeing.
3. Schedule time for yourself.
I can easily admit that I am guilty of telling myself that I will take the night to relax and watch a movie, but will end up working on my blog or doing homework instead. As a caregiver, it can be extremely hard to let yourself rest when you know there are more things that need to get done. So, to prevent yourself from overworking, make an effort to actually schedule a block of time for yourself every day (yes, you deserve to rest every day). Even if you’re not a big planner, attempt to still consciously designate an hour for “me-time” whenever you have no other set-in-stone things to do. This, like setting boundaries and acknowledging your needs, will help to prevent you from working yourself to total exhaustion.
4. Share your feelings.
Sharing my feelings is also something I struggle with. Although I may seem pretty open about my emotions and hardships on this blog, I have a really difficult time bringing them up to others. (I have an easier time sharing on this blog since it just feels like I’m talking to myself.) However, as I have slowly started working on speaking up about my true feelings with those around me, I have found that more of my needs are being met. (Are we seeing a pattern yet?) It’s no secret that it can be quite uncomfortable being vulnerable or even confronting others. However, if you’re talking to someone that genuinely cares about you, then they will likely listen to your needs and cater to them! This in itself can cause for a huge weight to be lifted off of your shoulders.
5. Ask for help.
Although this is similar to the previous tip, it deserves its own spot on the list. Asking for help is yet another vulnerable and uncomfortable thing to do, but is still quite necessary in caring for yourself. As a caregiver, you may think that you are expected to handle everything on your own, but really, that’s just not the case at all. Caring for others and putting yourself last can be extremely taxing on your physical and mental health. And, as hard as it may be to admit to, you are not supposed to do everything by yourself. So, ask for help when you find yourself struggling– physically, mentally, emotionally, or what have you. People will not view you as weak or helpless, but instead, will be so glad they can do something for you in turn.
Not only this, but sometimes, turning to a professional can also be a really great way to ask for help. I recently just restarted my therapy journey, and find lots of comfort in knowing I have someone to confide in when I need some extra guidance.