Ask Jonathan Column #3: How to Prioritize Self-Care During a Time of Caregiving and Isolation
With the holidays coming up, I’m trying to take some time for myself to rest and recharge. After such a tough year filled with isolation, I’ve had a hard time taking care of myself. How can I find the time to recover without neglecting my caregiving responsibilities, and without having to do anything “risky” during the pandemic?
First off, I want to say I’m so happy you’re trying to prioritize your health and well-being this holiday season. The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on Americans’ mental health, and these effects can be even more devastating for caregivers. In fact, we recently surveyed the Carewell community for our Unspoken Costs of Caregiving report, and found that 56% of respondents reported increased stress levels while quarantining with their care recipient.
It’s important to take a step back and carve out the time you need to take care of yourself. There are still some fun and safe ways to get a little R&R while at home this holiday season.
Here are a few simple yet rewarding self-care tips to refresh ahead of the New Year:
1. Create a relaxing atmosphere.
It can be tough to find time during the day to relax. Instead, allocate an hour of “me time” in the morning or evening when your care recipient is sleeping. Master a guided meditation, binge-watch a buzzworthy show like The Queen’s Gambit, or simply curl up with a good book. Personally, I’ve been browsing NPR’s Best Books of 2020 for inspiration.
2. Pick up a new hobby.
2020 inspired many new amateur bakers, makers, and hobbyists of all kinds. Use the extra time at home to try a new holiday recipe, start a scrapbook of fun memories with friends and family, or learn how to play a challenging game like chess. These new hobbies not only help pass the time, but give us something engaging to focus on while we're spending more time than ever at home.
3. Start a gratitude journal.
No matter the circumstances, it’s important to find one thing every day to be grateful for. Whether that’s a sunny day, a walk with your loved one, or a phone call from a friend, no acknowledgement of gratitude is too small. Start a gratitude journal: I think you’ll notice pretty quickly that there’s still a lot of good in every single day. It’s a helpful reminder to enjoy the little things and keep your mind off things out of your control.
4. Lean on your support system.
It can be hard to keep in touch with everyone when you can’t see them in person. For instance, 70% of our caregivers surveyed reported changes to relationships with loved ones and friends as a result of caregiving. It’s crucial to carve out time to lean on your support system, even if it’s from a distance. Take a weekly walk in the park with a friend, hold a monthly family Zoom session, or find a penpal to catch up with (or vent). There are also virtual therapy and mental wellness apps that you can use if you find yourself needing more support.
5. Go easy on yourself.
No matter the circumstance, don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re doing one of the hardest jobs there is, all out of love and respect for your care recipient. It will be hard, and there are many things out of your control, but caregivers need to recognize that doing the absolute best they can is more than enough. If you find yourself minimizing the need for “me time,” remember that you need to recharge in order to be the best caregiver you can be.
As we wrap up a difficult year, it’s important to recognize how awesome you are for doing this job day in and day out. I hope you find time to relax, enjoy the holiday season, and set yourself up for a great start to 2021. I’m sure I’m not the only one who can’t wait for next year!
Have a wonderful holiday and happy New Year,
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