As caregivers, we expend energy. For a moment, think of our energy as water. Imagine our source of water coming from a well. Day after day, you withdraw water from the well to drink, to cook with to bathe with. The source of replenishment has been cut off from the well. You may continue to draw from that well until it is dry. It stands to reason, if the well is not being continually fed from a spring or underground source, it will dry up. What happens if the well dries up? The well can no longer give water.
Think about yourself as a caregiver. Are you a physician, a nurse, a radiology tech, lab tech, childcare provider, nursing assistant, beautician, dentist, dental assistant or hygienist, family member, or one of the many providers whose underlying mission is that of caregiver? You have chosen the noble profession of being a giver. Think of the water well. If you are not allowing yourself to be refreshed, you will run dry. What are some symptoms of running dry? Burnout, exhaustion, impatience, fatigue, or a feeling of overwhelm are just a few examples of one can feel if your well has gone dry. I am going to discuss a few ways I have found helpful to keep my well full and over-flowing.
1) Take at least 15 minutes per day for a time of quiet, meditation, or prayer. This time of quiet and reflection can help you focus and quiet your thoughts. This practice can be hard in the beginning as your mind wants to wander and fill with all the duties of the day. Continue to practice this and you will begin to see your mind and body relax.
2) Examine your nutrition. Do you eat on the run? Is fast food your main source of nourishment? Take time to plan your meals and snacks ahead of time. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water and not allowing yourself to get dehydrated. Headaches and fatigue can occur from simply being dehydrated. Eat low glycemic impact foods. These foods do not raise your blood sugar and cause unhealthy cravings. Eating smaller meals or snacks throughout the day also promotes even blood sugar levels, and will prevent spikes and lows in the blood sugar. (which will also help prevent unhealthy food cravings)
3) Wear comfortable clothing. Make sure you are wearing clothing you can breathe in. Do you remember how it feels good to purchase a new outfit? You can have those same feelings when you buy new work clothes. Most caregivers wear scrubs. They are very comfortable. You can be creative with colors and prints when purchasing scrubs. Unless your employment regulates the colors you wear, try something new and different. Speaking of comfortable, make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes! There is almost nothing worse than a long shift with shoes that hurt your feet. Clogs are very comfortable.
4) Affirmations! Do you like yourself? I mean, do you really like yourself? We have to first like and care for ourselves, if we are going to be affective in the care of others. If you have a hard time answering that question “yes”, you need to spend a little time in this area of self care. Conduct a Google search on “affirmation cards and see what you come up with. Affirmations are words of self-talk which are positive in nature. I have a set of Cheryl Richardson affirmation cards that I ordered from Hay House. I also have a few sets of cards from other authors of the same company. Place these in areas where you will see them each day. Invest in your self-talk.
5) Find your “happy place”. Where is your happy place? Do you like the ocean? Do you like the mountains? What place brings feelings of serenity can peace to you? Close your eyes and visualize this place. What does it feel like? What does it smell like? Allow yourself to be in this place. Take slow deep breaths. When you find yourself overwhelmed in a situation, step back for a moment and go to your happy place, even if for only a few moments in your mind. Take a few deep breaths. When you come back to the moment, you may be able to face the situation at hand.
6) What is it you enjoy doing? How do you treat yourself? Do you treat yourself? If not, then write down a few things you feel are a treat and schedule these things. Take a long relaxing bath. Schedule the much needed appointment with your hair stylist. Get that mani-pedi. Go to the museum and walk around for a bit, taking in all the beauty. Find what it is that is nourishing to you, and do it. Regularly.
7) Prioritize. We are given a fixed amount of time every day. Every item on your to-do list requires energy points. Make yourself a priority. If on your to-do list, you are not one of the to-do’s, then revamp that list until you are allowing time everyday for a refilling and refreshing. These ideas are only a start. They are only the tip of the ice-burg. Self-care takes time, effort, and practice. My desire is to see you become your best self. The first ah ha moment you need to have with yourself, is the realization not only is self-care OK, but imperative for your overall mental and emotional well-being. I would love to hear from you as you share your self-care ideas with me!