How to Fit Self-Care in Your Day Without Stressing Yourself Out
Caregivers hear it all the time. “You need to take care of yourself.” “Don’t forget to care for yourself.” And on and on and on. The problem is, your day is already packed tight. How do you fit self-care into your day when you’re already struggling to make it through your day?
I’ve been having a tough time with self-care myself lately. My youngest is on yet another sleep strike. He stays up until around midnight. I have to be up at 7 a.m. to make it out the door on time. Six hours is nowhere near enough sleep for me, particularly with my autoimmune condition. In fact, I’ve noticed significantly more pain recently, which is probably related to my lack of sleep.
I had gotten in the habit of doing my evening stretches before bed, but lately, I’m limping to bed. My stretches are essentially my only self-care (outside of my morning shower) and I’ve cut them out of my life. On top of that, I haven’t been able to find time to squeeze in some of my other self-care activities like reading, taking a bath and even meditating.
It has gotten so bad that the other night, when my oldest came into my room for the 10th time that evening, I pulled out my phone and played a 15 minute mindfulness track I have on my phone. He fell asleep in less than 5 minutes and I listed to the rest of the track alone. That was probably the only time I’ve practiced self-care in about three weeks.
All that is to say, I totally get being busy and letting self-care fall by the wayside. When you are a caregiver, it is so easy to put your loved one’s needs ahead of your own. Their “fires” need to be put out and self-care is something you can just get to when you can. Except, if you don’t plan for self-care, you probably won’t practice self-care.
Plotting Self-Care Into Your Caregiving Routine
If you are struggling to fit self-care into your daily life, here are some simple ways to squeeze self-care into your day seamlessly. Put self-care on your calendar if you forget to work it into your day.
Caregiver Self-Care in the Morning
Start off your day on the right foot with a little self-care in the morning. Pick one thing and try to do it for an entire week.
Morning Shower: If I really think about it, my self-care is my morning shower. I go straight to the shower in the morning. I don’t speak to anyone, I don’t help anyone with anything. That is my time and I guard it. I schedule my shower into my day and nothing gets in the way.
Truth be told, it is necessary for me since I struggle with morning stiffness from my medical condition and the hot water helps me feel more mobile, but it is also my quiet place to think and just be alone. It is the only time I am alone all day.
Morning Stretches: If you’re not a morning shower person, can you wake up a few minutes early to do some stretches? Even just 10 minutes early? You can do this three minute stretching routine or practice one of these three minute self-care practices. It doesn’t take long.
I’ve been trying to fit morning stretches into my day but struggle with waking up earlier than I already do since I’m up late. Don’t forgo sleep to fit in morning self-care. Go to bed earlier if you can – even if you only go to bed 10 minutes earlier (remember, you can do these stretches in 9 minutes).
Morning Hot Beverage: Another way to squeeze self-care into your morning is to drink your coffee or tea alone. Drinking a hot beverage essentially forces you to slow down. There is no way to gulp a hot cup of coffee. To make your morning hot beverage a self-care practice, you need to do it alone in a quiet space.
That may mean that you get up a few minutes early. Or, you may need to take it to your room or sit on your porch. You can choose to just sit quietly with your coffee or tea or read a book. Given the current world climate, I recommend against watching the news. There is so much trouble and negativity that you don’t want to start your day in that negative space.
Caregiver Self-Care in the Afternoon
Whether you work in an office by day and are a caregiver in the evening or you are a full-time caregiver, it is important to take a break in the afternoon. I have been guilty of eating lunch at my desk to power through my work, so I’m guilty of skipping self-care here too. Here are some ways to squeeze in a short self-care break.
Change Your Lunchtime Scenery: Can you take your lunch outside? Is your office or home near a park? If so, consider eating outside to get a change of scenery and fresh air. We tend to feel better when and are more alert when we get some much-needed Vitamin D. If you can’t afford to eat your lunch outside, at least take a 10 minute walk around the block.
Indulge in Afternoon Entertainment: If you can’t get outside, you can still take a small break. Take a 10 minute reading break. If you don’t feel like reading a book, read a magazine or visit a website you enjoy (come back to Caregiving Made Easy!), or watch a funny or inspiring video on YouTube. Just take a few minutes to do something just for you.
Caregiver Self-Care in the Evening
While most people tend to have their evenings free, caregivers are probably busiest in the evening – especially if you also work full-time! I am usually so tired at the end of my day that I would rather go straight to bed than do something for myself.
That being said, we all know that self-care is important, especially for caregivers. Going to bed on a positive note will help you sleep better and is better for your overall well-being. Here are some self-care activities you can do that aren’t too taxing.
Bedtime Stretches or Mindfulness Routine: There are a ton of guided meditations on YouTube that you can incorporate into your evening self-care routine. You can also find a number of stretching routines to get you ready for bed.
Gratitude Journal: If you are struggling with a lot of negative thoughts or feeling frustrated over your caregiving journey, consider keeping a gratitude journal. Even if you’ve had a rough day, there is always something to be grateful for – you woke up today, your loved one woke up today, you have a roof over your head, you have food in your belly. Some days, we just need to be grateful for the things we take for granted.
Quiet Time: Maybe you don’t enjoy sitting in silence doing nothing. If that’s the case, use your quiet time to color or read. For me, on particularly chaotic days, I go to my room a little early and just sit in quiet before I go to bed. My life is not quiet but sometimes I crave quiet space. This helps me add quiet time to just think to my day. I’ll share my secret – if my kids are determined to take away my quiet time, I have been known to lock myself in the bathroom to get that time. It doesn’t matter where you go for your quiet time, just take that time back!
Of course, there are so many ways to practice self-care – big and small. You don’t need to spend a lot of time or money on self-care, you just need to take time to care for your own needs for a change.
I saw an article titled, “You are a mother, not a servant.” That resonated with me. I would venture to say that it can also be said that “You are a caregiver, not a servant.” Remind yourself of that and take time for yourself here and there. It is important to your well-being.