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3 Powerful Self-Care Habits for Caregivers

Female family caregiver reading book on sofa with a hot drink practicing self-care
Getty Images / Dean Mitchell

When you're a caregiver, self-care isn't a weakness but a sign of strength. Susanne White shares three vital self-care tips.

When I talk about self-care with fellow caregivers, responses can be worrying.

Although the conversation doesn’t always steer in this direction, it happens enough to make something apparent:

A lot of caregivers struggle to take care of themselves.

Too many caregivers neglect their self-care

When I suggest that self-care should be a priority, caregivers will dig in their heels, run away, or hang their heads and admit they don't take care of themselves.

Self-care can even become an off-limits subject, met with annoyance and impatience:

"I don't have time to take care of myself! I'm too busy taking care of someone else!”

Believe me, I understand this mentality all too well. I've also been guilty of neglecting my own needs. By putting our needs on the back burner, we can leave ourselves open to serious threats to our health and well-being.

So, as caregivers, consider these simple habits before you brush off the idea of self-care. Trust me, following these three "golden rules" will make a massive difference in your life and the life of those you care for.

1. Get your priorities straight

We’re allowed to focus on our own needs. Being emotionally, physically, and spiritually bankrupt doesn’t help anybody or anything.

How could it? Caregiving is not a sprint. It’s the marathon of our lifetime. If we run on fumes, we crash and burn. We must take the time to replenish and nurture our bodies and minds.

We, as caregivers, are also entitled to be whole and healthy.

The only way to do this is to make practical decisions and prioritize our well-being. Looking in the mirror and asking what we need to make us feel healthier and happier is an act of survival and grace. It empowers us to be ready for anything.

2. Drop the excuses for lack of self-care

I mean absolutely no disrespect, and I apologize for the "tough-love" vibe, but here goes:

As caregivers, we must stop making excuses about finding time to care for ourselves.

The excuse I often hear is that we have "no time for ourselves" because our loved ones need and deserve all our attention.

True, there's always an overwhelming number of things to do. But what if your loved one had an accident and needed an emergency doctor's visit. Could you find the time to take them in your already impossibly busy schedule?

Yes, of course! So, if you can pull time and energy out of the air for them, you can find that same time for yourself.

Saying we cannot find time for ourselves is an excuse – especially when we can find the time for someone else.

Frame it this way: if we do not find time for ourselves and get sick and burnt out, who will care for our loved ones?

Finding all that time and energy for someone else is a caregiver's magic trick. If we can do it for our loved ones, we can do it for ourselves.

3. Praise yourself instead of criticizing yourself

Caregiving is not about success or failure.

Yet, somehow, we consider reliance on others, physical boundaries, and understandable emotional breaking points as "weaknesses."

Who made up these rules? When did caregiving become a contest or an end goal?

Self-criticism is the enemy. Telling ourselves that vulnerability or asking for help makes us "bad caregivers" is destructive and untrue.

There are no rules, and there isn’t a “perfect” way to be a caregiver.

Just by showing up, we are entitled to a victory lap! So, instead of being hard on ourselves, we must celebrate.

Only through self-awareness and lots of practice could I treat myself with the respect and care I deserved. When I began to be as kind to myself as I am to my loved ones, I became a better caregiver. I didn't burn out as fast, was calmer, and stopped second-guessing myself.

The takeaway

Prioritizing self-care didn't take away from my commitment to my loved ones.

In fact, looking after my own well-being ensures I'm in better shape to enrich the lives of those I care for.

So, let's stop hanging our heads in shame when people ask about us and our self-care. Instead, let's lift ourselves up and be proud to invest time and energy into being healthier and happier.

After all, when we honor ourselves, we also honor those who depend on us.

The information presented is solely for educational purposes, not as specific advice for the evaluation, management, or treatment of any condition.

The individual(s) who have written and created the content in and whose images appear in this article have been paid by Teva Pharmaceuticals for their contributions. This content represents the opinions of the contributor and does not necessarily reflect those of Teva Pharmaceuticals. Similarly, Teva Pharmaceuticals does not review, control, influence or endorse any content related to the contributor's websites or social media networks. This content is intended for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered medical advice or recommendations. Consult a qualified medical professional for diagnosis and before beginning or changing any treatment regimen. 

NPS-ALL-NP-00926 MAY 2023

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