Self Care: What If I can’t?

By Matilda Stauber

Imagine that you just got back home from a day of work. Ahead of you awaits another couple of hours of giving care to your sick family member. They may need help to bathe, take their medications, do basic physiotherapy exercises, and be fed. However, first, you may need to cook that meal, a meal that you will also eat but which lacks any ingredients that you like, because the person you are giving care to is now unable to eat them. Perhaps they have Alzheimer’s or a mental illness that has flared up, making them anxious or aggressive. You have to spend extra time calming them down, before putting them and yourself to bed. Maybe your person wakes up in the middle of the night and has trouble sleeping, feels pain, or needs to go to the washroom. When morning comes again, you take care of their needs before rushing off to another day’s work. And so on, day in and day out. All under the pressure of knowing that the person you love is ill, possibly terminally.

Yet, as a caregiver, you are told to prioritize self-care. How? When? With what energy? It is much easier to sit on the sofa with a blank stare or with your smartphone, endlessly scrolling on social media, as ways to cope. Persons who do not give care do this too, yet they have more free time to dedicate to a self-care routine. So how can you as a caregiver be expected to have the energy to be any different, yet you are working two jobs? 

7 points of self-care

On the 24th of July, Suruvi – Care for Caregivers celebrates International Self-care Day together with the rest of the world. This month we have begun highlighting the seven different aspects of self-care, which include but are not limited to health literacy, physical exercise, a healthy diet, and risk prevention. It may feel extensive when you have not considered yourself and your own health due to giving care to a loved one. It may even feel impossible, or selfish, to put away time for yourself. Most of all, it may feel like you simply do not have the energy. How are you supposed to feel motivated to do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity workout throughout the week when you’ve worked 8 hours, commuted for 2 hours, and spent most of your free time looking after your family member? It is so much easier to melt into your bed or couch and do nothing, right?

No knowledge can be more satisfactory to a man than that of his own frame,

its parts, their functions and actions.”

Thomas Jefferson [1743-1826]: 

Baby steps!

When raising the issue of self-care and its importance, we recognize that it is not a 0 to a 100 change. That is demotivating and too difficult. Any change has to be done reasonably and give more than it takes, especially when it is related to your self-care. Therefore, allow it to take time. Take baby steps in the right direction. See what you are already doing that can be counted as caring for yourself. Maybe that is brushing your teeth twice a day. It may feel like a silly thing to celebrate, but the pressure you are under changes your circumstances. And by maintaining your oral health, you are preventing potential future illnesses such as gum disease. 

See the journey, the trajectory, as what matters. Even just by considering walking to the grocery store you have begun caring about your physical exercise and caring for yourself. By incorporating one additional self-care activity, like singing as you walk or seeing a counselor, you are on the right track, and that is worth patting yourself on the shoulder for. Remember; the caregiving role you are in shall pass one day. Who do you want to be when that role is over? 

2 comments on “Self Care: What If I can’t?

  1. Judz says:

    Very God reminder. It’s 80% mental and 20% technical. Your brain helps you find ways during the day to be creative in selfcare.

  2. Sometimes singing can be difficult… Especially when there is little joy within. But we have to try. Because one step is all it takes.

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