A To Do List To Help Caregivers Make Themselves A Priority
When we are busy, one of the first things to go is self-care and health maintenance. There are only a few hours in the day and if you are a caregiver, you know those hours get filled very quickly with tasks to do for others.
One of the reasons we never get around to ourselves is that we don’t tend to schedule it in to our day or make it part of our routine. Another reason caregivers skip out on focusing on their own wellness is because after handling the care of everyone else, they just don’t have the energy left to do one more thing.
Creating a caregiver wellness to do list can help you remember to care for yourself. You’d be surprised by how little time you actually need to do things for yourself once you get into the practice of self-care.
I used to think I don’t have time for exercise because I am literally busy caring for other humans and/or working from the time I get out of the shower in the morning until 8:30/0 p.m., at which point, I’m pretty wiped out. I have started carving out up to 40 minutes each day to do a yoga video. I discovered a Gentle Yoga video on my cable TV OnDemand that only takes 37 minutes. I do that when I have the time, but yesterday, I had an unexpected doctor’s appointment so I had to skip my 37 minute routine. Instead, before bed, I went to YouTube.com, searched for “Gentle Yoga” and found a bedtime yoga video that was 19 minutes. The best part is, it made me nice and relaxed for bed.
Caregiver Wellness To Do List
The most effective way to make sure you take care of yourself is to put your self-care on your to do list. If it has been so long since you’ve done anything for yourself, here are some self-care items you can add to your to do list.
I’ve created a caregivingmadeeasy_wellnesstodos for you to fill in with the self-care tasks you’d like to schedule into your day. Hopefully this will help you put your own self-care at the forefront. Here’s a tip – if you assign each day of the week an activity, you are more likely to do it. For example, you can assign Monday “Meatless Monday” or Wednesday “Walking Wednesday.” That way, you know that on Wednesday, you always carve out 10 minutes to go for a walk. Just remember, it takes six weeks to create a habit so don’t give up on yourself if you can’t make it happen right away.
Health To Dos for Caregivers:
Here are some health tweaks you can do daily (or just a few times a week) for yourself that can add up to positive changes in your well-being over time.
- Take a 10 minute walk in the morning.
- Take a 10 minute walk in the evening.
- Do a short stretching routine before bed or when you wake up.
- Eat one vegetable with each meal. If you don’t have time to cook vegetables, purchased pre-chopped vegetables that can be steamed in the microwave in just a few minutes.
- Make one day per week meatless.
- Snack on fruit or a healthy serving size of nuts like almonds or walnuts.
Self-care To Dos for Caregivers:
Try to do at least one of these small self-care acts each day or at least once or twice a week.
- Stop and breathe. Take a few minutes to practice this simple breathing technique: Inhale for a count of 8, hold for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 10. Repeat at least three times.
- Get some fresh air. Go outside for at least 10 minutes. Stop, sit in a chair or take a walk – just breathe in some fresh air.
- Do a mindful meditation. If you find that you have a tough time with meditation, try a guided meditation. You can find several on YouTube.com – just type guided meditation and pick one that appeals to you.
- Do something indulgent. Is there something you like to do that takes a lot of time so you don’t do it anymore? Try to squeeze it in once a week. In my case, I paint my fingernails, which forces me to sit still so that I don’t ruin my nails.
- Use luxurious products. If you can’t take a lot of time to do your nails and wait for them to dry, use some nice quality products for everyday tasks. For example, use a really nice hand cream or shampoo. Purchase high quality sheets or buy nice comfy slippers. Buy an item or two that makes you feel happy when you use it.
- Engage your brain. Do something that will stimulate your brain like read a book, do a crossword puzzle, listen to a podcast or read a magazine.
- Watch a TV show you enjoy (or a movie if you have extra time) or spend some time with an adult coloring book or a hobby you enjoy.
Caregiver Health Maintenance To Dos:
These to dos aren’t necessarily daily, weekly or even monthly, but be sure you’re staying on top of these general health maintenance activities. Note, this is where having a caregiver network comes in handy. Having others able to step in on caregiving allows you to take time to maintain your health.
Schedule these appointments well in advance, preferably at the same time of year so that you’re less likely to forget them.
- Visit your general practitioner once a year for a physical/routine check up.
- Visit your dentist once every 6 months.
- Stay on top of vaccinations, especially the flu vaccine.
- Stay on top of typical screenings (these are just suggestions – speak with your doctor about the frequency of your screenings):
- Mammogram (annually)
- Gynecological exams
- Colorectal cancer screening (every 10 years)
- Prostate cancer screening (annual)
While this entire to do list may seem overwhelming, remember, this isn’t a “do everything on the list” to do list. This is just a guide to help you choose wellness activities you can add to your to do list to make sure that you are caring for yourself. Even if you just add one task from each list to your life, you’ll make a tiny improvement in your life.
Many caregivers feel that there just isn’t time to care for themselves right now so they’ll do it later. The problem is, most caregivers are in their role for three to five years. Additionally, the caregiving required at the end of the journey will likely be more time and emotionally consuming than it is in the early stages. If you don’t take time to care for yourself throughout the process, at the end of your caregiving journey, you may be left with your own set of health problems.
If you feel guilty about taking time for yourself, try to remember that the person you are caring for loves you and wouldn’t want to see you sick or unhappy. They would want you to care for your own needs. You would too, if the situation was reversed. You don’t have to spend hours and hours on yourself (although that is perfectly OK if you do), just commit to making small changes to your life.