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Who Will Care for the Caregiver? 7 Steps for Caregiver Self-Care (Part 1)

"Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others." Christopher Germer (from his book, The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion) Caregivers are called upon to carry the weight of the world. When balancing work, family, and caregiving, we can easily forget to attend to our own well-being. If you continue to neglect yourself, you risk burnout--which would harm those you love. We must take care of ourselves if we are to care for others, and Next Avenue has seven steps for taking better care of yourself. We'll discuss the first four below and finish in the next post.

1. Make the Decision to Change the Way You Take Care of Yourself

You must commit to better self-care before you do anything else. This will crystallize your decision, making it real. It's all well and good to tell worried family or friends that you'll try to take better care of yourself, but that will just be an empty promise until you actually decide to change how your care for your own well-being.

2. Define Your End Goal

What does successful self-care look like to you? Your goal could be physical, like improved sleep or more exercise. It could also be more figurative, like becoming more assertive. You could also include other concrete plans: making your brother take care of your mother one weekend every month; seeing a therapist to deal with a mental health issue. Whatever your ultimate goal, put it in writing.

3. Make a List of Things/People You Need to Say “No” To

As Next Avenue says, "Some of us have gotten used to following the elephant around the circus with a shovel." You must allow yourself the gift of refusal. Who takes advantage of you? What do you need to delegate? Natural people-pleasers might feel guilty, even embarrassed at first: after all, helping is part of your identity. People might be surprised, annoyed, or angry; but they will accept your "no" when you stand firm. If they don't, then rest assured that they will find someone else to do their grunt work. You have more important things to do.

4. Delegate: Lighten Your Load and Allow Yourself Some Pleasure

Now it's time to let others in on your plan. You might be surprised at how receptive your loved ones are to your new goals! Maybe your sister-in-law wanted to help out, but didn't know how; or your cousin always felt that he should contribute to Aunt May's care, but "didn't want to step on your toes." Now that you've delegated some tasks, feel free to use the time for yourself. And don't feel pressured to use your time "productively," either. Whether you spend those precious few hours running errands or reading fiction, the time is yours alone!

We'll discuss the remaining three steps in the next post!

For more information, visit Next Avenue here