Care giving can come in many forms. You might be caring for children, for elderly parents, an ill spouse, siblings who turn to you at a time of need. Your profession may involve care giving. Care giving can be physical acts (feeding, clothing, wiping snotty noses!) or providing emotional support. Regardless of whom you are caring for and what that care looks like, it can be exhausting! While there is no doubt that taking care of others can feel good (and is often necessary), it can be tricky to balance the care of others and your own self care. Self care is critical to your own emotional well being. There is basic self care such as eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep and engaging in physical activity. Even these basics can be neglected when caring for other people. Sleepless parents can definitely relate to the experience of having their own sleep affected by care giving to a child in the middle of the night. In addition to basic self care, we greatly benefit from participating in activities that we find enjoyable. Having a hobby is linked to greater creativity, increased problem solving skills and overall emotional well being. Self care can also include seeing friends and engaging with our support system. Feeling a sense of connection is associated with better mental health, decreased levels of depression and anxiety and can help us cope better with stressors.
Often caregivers feel that their own self care is very low on the priority list. There may even be guilt associated with engaging in self care. This lack of self care however, can have detrimental effects. If we do not engage in our own self care, we can start to suffer both emotionally and physically. Our ability to cope begins to decrease and we start to feel overwhelmed. When we feel overwhelmed, we are unable to provide optimal care giving. We may start to feel frustrated with those that we are caring for. Requests for our help can feel enormously stressful. We may eventually feel so burnt out, that we are no longer able to provide care giving.
In order to avoid these feelings of being frustrated, overwhelmed and burnt out, we need to make self care a priority. It is not a luxury, but a necessity in order for us to be able to take care of those that we love and value. By taking care of ourselves, we are taking care of others as well. Take the time today to do something that is just for you, something that you enjoy and value. Banish feelings of guilt, as you are not doing anything wrong by taking care of yourself. Just enjoy, recharge and reap the benefits of self care.