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  • Writer's pictureCassandra Martin-Himmons

30+ Ways For Caregivers to Make Self-Care a Priority

Updated: Apr 4


3 candles for self-care sitting on a marble table with a white brick background
There's nothing like the smell of candles!


When you’re a family caregiver, time is one of the things that you never seem to have enough of. Especially time to take care of yourself.  


That’s because all of us (including me) get caught up in the day-to-day rush of everyday life which leaves very little time to focus on our own self-care. You’re juggling work and family, and there’s barely a moment to breathe, let alone do anything simply to make yourself feel good.


When you always make time for everything and everyone else, but don’t make time for yourself, eventually you’ll end up feeling stressed, depleted and empty. That's where self-care comes in. Self-care is an important component to your overall health both mental and physical so it’s important for you to find ways to make it a priority, no matter how busy you are.

But have no fear, there are a million ways that you can adopt healthier habits and start putting yourself first for once (and it doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time). Read on for 30 super simple ways that you can begin putting yourself first and make self-care a top priority. After all, self-care is the best way to manage your stress before your stress manages you.


Alone Time

As a family caregiver, it can be difficult to get a moment for yourself. But, as important as it is to connect with those around you, spending time alone is important when prioritizing self-care in your life. We all need some alone time. Life is hectic and we rarely give ourselves a moment to slow down and recharge, let alone be by ourselves when doing so.


If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, on edge and anxious, it may be that you need some time to yourself. Spending even a small amount of time alone each day can help clear your head and relax your mind. It allows you to be present with your own thoughts so you can tune in to what you want and need. If you live in a busy household or aren’t used to having a lot of time to yourself, start small, just 15 – 20 minutes a day will do. You can use that time for self-reflection, to meditate or practice your deep breathing.


You can also ask yourself questions such as, “What is a choice I can make this week based on my needs alone,” or “How can I be more intentional with my time today?” Once you start reflecting on what’s truly important to you, making yourself a priority will be much easier.


Ask For Help





When you need help, ask for it. It’s as simple as that. As caregivers, too often, we don’t want to burden anyone with our problems, so we attempt to handle things on our own. This can lead to feelings of stress, overwhelm and guilt.


You can waste so much time and energy trying to find your own solutions when could easily just reach out to someone else for a little assistance; especially if they’ve faced the same issues. As humans, we need connection. We desire to contribute and make a difference in someone else’s life. Asking for help gives you a two-fer – you get the assistance you need and allow the other person to give you support.


Aromatherapy




Aromatherapy provides a quick, easy way for family caregivers such as yourself to incorporate self-care into your day.  You can use candles, a scent diffuser, wax melts, room spray – whatever you like that uses scents that you find relaxing.


Scent can transport you to another place which can be really helpful if you’re using it as a self-care device.  Think about it, I’m sure there was a time when you smelled something cooking and it reminded you of a specific person or a time from your past.  Well, aromatherapy can do the same thing for you as well.


Some good scents to try for self-care:


  • Peppermint

To boost energy, motivation and mood

  • Lavender

This is a flower known to promote rest and relaxation. Try using lavender spray on your pillowcase.

  • Orange

This is an energizing scent. Caregiving can be exhausting, so for a quick pick me up, try eating an orange and inhaling its scent.



Boundaries

Setting boundaries helps you to learn how to say ‘No’ and mean it. This is something that many people struggle with, but it’s so important to self-care. Saying no allows you to get back in the driver’s seat and have more control over your own life even as a busy family caregiver.


Many people say, “there’s no time for self-care because there are too many other things to do. However, a lot of the time this is because they’ve said yes to everyone else’s demands. Instead of filling up your time this way, start saying no to mundane tasks so that you can leave more time for what you really want to do or absolutely must do.


You’ll start to see that you do have time to read that book, see that movie or take a quick walk. Remember that “No” is a full sentence and it will work wonders in helping you make self-care a priority in your life.


Clear The Clutter




Another way to fully immerse yourself into the self-care zone, is to organize your physical space. Many people don’t realize that clutter can influence their mental or physical health. But it can, which means that organization is a form of self-care. It gives you peace of mind, decreases stress and allows you to spend time on things OTHER than more organizing.


What’s a simple way to clear the clutter?


Figure out where your clutter zones are and prioritize the order in which you want to declutter. Then get started. Clean out junk drawers. Purge your closets. Toss out broken toys or donate unused household items. By getting organized now, you allow yourself more time for self-care and less time to get distracted by random clutter.



Clear The Digital Clutter

Just as clutter in your home can bring you down and lead to stress, so can digital clutter.  By digital clutter I mean things like e-mails, website bookmarks, newsletter subscriptions, etc.


You should regularly unsubscribe or delete e-mails, bookmarks and subscriptions that you aren’t going to use. Once a month is a good place to start.  When you receive an e-mail, look at it and decide if you are going to take action on it immediately, file it in a specific folder or delete it immediately.  That will prevent them from piling up.


Connection

As human beings, we need connection in our lives and sometimes that takes being very intentional with our time. Finding ways to connect becomes extremely important if you are juggling work, caregiving and other responsibilities that limit your time.

 

Of course, it’s preferable to connect with others in person - live, in the flesh. But if you’re tight on time, then you can connect via the digital world with your social media “friends” on Instagram or Facebook. But in person is best.


If you can, try to go outside and do something that makes you feel good. Allow yourself the time to laugh, explore and have fun with others outside of normal daily life. Try volunteering at an animal shelter or soup kitchen or re-connect with someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Go on a date night with your spouse or get together for a girl’s night out (or in via Zoom) and catch up with old friends. This will allow you to recharge your batteries and you’ll be a better caregiver because of it.


Creativity


Several crayons on top of a white floor.
Creativity IS a form of self-care!


Even if you feel like you’re not a creative person, there is creativity inside of you. Think of creativity as being able to reconnect with your inner child by connecting to your inner artist. Many people sometimes stray away from the things they loved most as a child as adult responsibilities get in the way.


Think back to when you were little. What creative activities did you enjoy? Writing, painting, sketching, acting, reading, scrapbooking? For me it was and still is scrapbooking.


Get back some of that magic and make time to play. Depending on the activity, you can even include the person that you’re providing caregiving services for.  Download that movie you’ve been wanting to watch. Pick up a book and read. Try that new yoga class. Get yourself a canvas and some paint and create a masterpiece! Do what it takes to tap into your creative side and allow yourself some time to reconnect with those activities that you loved back in the day.


Day Trip

For family caregivers it can be hard to take a multiweek vacation. But sometimes you just need to get away. In that case, a day trip can be just the thing you need to relax, unwind and get away from everyday stressors. A change of pace can help you relax and reset so that you’re able to recommit to your caregiving.


Deep Breathing





I’ve often said that breath = life.  And it’s true! Deep Breathing is something that can make a difference in your life, mood and body.  It can help you remain calm during highly charged moments such as when you’re feeling angry or anxious. Here’s an easy deep breathing exercise to try, it’s called 4-7-8 breathing:


  • Inhale for a count of 4.

  • Hold your breath for a count of 7.

  • Exhale for a count of 8.

  • Repeat as needed.


Try it and comment below to let me know how it works out for you.


Exercise

Exercise is one of the 1st activities that many people think of when they think of self-care. And with good reason. Exercise strengthens your body and helps to strengthen your mind. And you can rid yourself of excess tension and stress as well. 


One of the great things about exercise is that there is a form of exercise for everyone.  If you haven’t exercised for a while, after checking with your doctor, start small for a few minutes a few times a week.



Feed Your Mind

One of the most important things you can do for your mental health is to feed your mind with daily inspiration and positivity. Affirmations are a great way to do this. With all the resources at your fingertips, the options are limitless when it comes to choosing a medium for pursuing positivity.


  • Find a favorite podcast or choose an uplifting Ted Talk.

  • Read (or listen to) a book, seek out inspirational YouTube Videos or watch a documentary.

  • Review positive quotes or read my post on how to use affirmations.


Set aside a little time each day to give yourself this boost of positivity. Not only will you feel better, but it will open your mind to all the possibilities life has to offer and inspire you to become an even better version of yourself.


Get It Together Days

A get it together day is also called GYST which means Get Your Shit Together. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated when you have a list of tedious to-dos piling up. A GYST day allows you to take care of all those things in one swoop so you can be more focused and organized for the coming week.


Pick a day that works with your schedule and do all the things that make you feel better about your life. Maybe you need to pamper yourself more, so you take time for a face mask and a relaxing bubble bath. Maybe you need a day to clean and organize your space or pay some nagging bills. Setting aside a dedicated day to get your life together (or at least feel like it) will give you the boost you need to get through the rest of the week. And that is a form of self-care!


Gratitude




There is something powerful about appreciating what you already have. Developing a gratitude practice will help you love your life and all the things in it, resulting in a life-changing shift in perspective about what is truly important.


Practicing gratitude is one of the most basic forms of self-care. It doesn’t have to cost a lot and you can easily get started with just a journal and a pen. Check out my gratitude journal here if you don't have one.


A gratitude practice is great to use as part of your morning routine. It helps you start off your day in a centered and positive way. Each morning take the time to write down a few experiences, people or things you’re grateful for and why you're grateful for them. Then once a week or once a month, go back and read what you've written. You can do this at night as well.


The more you practice gratitude, the more it becomes second nature. When gratitude gets to the point of being second nature, you’ll start to notice more – the joy, the beauty and all the miracles in life that surround you no matter if life has gotten tough.



Guilt - Let It Go






Putting yourself first is 100% necessary for you to show up in the world as the best possible version of YOURSELF. It’s not selfish, contrary to what we’ve told ourselves, yet there is so much guilt surrounding the idea of making self-care a routine part of your life.


For caregivers there’s often guilt that you’re not doing enough, or that you’re doing too much or that you can’t effectively juggle all that’s on your plate. And that’s just the tip of the guilt iceberg!


The first step to letting go of this guilt is to understand what it means (or doesn’t mean) to put yourself first.


Engaging in self-care doesn’t mean that you disregard everyone else and only care about yourself from this moment on. It doesn’t mean that you need to stop helping others. It only means that you prioritize your needs first (where you can) and then move down the line in order of importance.


You can’t be of service to others when you are depleted and empty. The whole world benefits when you set aside your guilt and begin making yourself a priority.



Journaling




Many caregivers don't spend nearly enough time journaling. Because our lives are so hectic, having a mind cluttered with the chaos of daily life means that sometimes individuals lose touch with themselves. Don’t let that happen to you.


Pick up a notebook or journal and pen and start getting real with yourself and your thoughts.  If you have a morning routine, consider starting your day with a quick journal entry. You can plan out your day ahead or develop a gratitude practice.


If all else fails, just put down whatever comes to your mind and let go of the idea that it must be perfect. Write down your wins, your worries, your mess ups and everything in between. This helps you start each day with a clear head so you can take on the rest of your day. If you want to learn more about how to journal as a family caregiver, click this link to check out my eBook on Amazon.


Learn Something New

Never stop learning! Giving yourself the gift of knowledge is a great way to engage in self-care. It helps your mind to grow, which can help protect you from stress in the long run.


Think about something that you’ve always wanted to learn. Write out a list of things that interest you and research online courses, books, videos, etc., that will allow you to expand your knowledge on those topics. Maybe you want to learn more about the Civil Rights movement, how to begin hand-lettering so that you can open an Etsy shop, how to meditate, how to break free from caregiver’s guilt or the best way to begin a journaling practice. Whatever it is, you can find a course out there and start learning something new right now.


Meal Planing


A plate of veggies and chicken on a fur placemat
Healthy Prepping


Meal planning helps you eliminate one more stressful item from your to-do list. It takes the stress out of wondering what’s for dinner and can also save you big bucks on your grocery bill. Pick one day a week to plan out your meals, make a grocery list and go shopping.


With your list in hand, you won’t be as tempted to buy the random things you find in the grocery store aisles. You’ll be more likely to make healthier choices and won’t have to wander around aimlessly trying to figure out what’s for dinner as you’ll know exactly what you’re going for. Prep takes the guesswork out of mealtimes and gives you much more control over your health and nutrition. Which is a long-term form of self-care. You might also consider delegating grocery shopping out to a friend or family member.



Music





Have you heard the phrase, “music calms the savage beast”? Well, it’s true! Music can help beat back your inner stress monster. Music has a huge impact on our emotional, mental and physical health which makes it one of the most valuable forms of self-care.


Have you ever heard a song that makes you feel better after you’ve had a rough day? It’s all about the music. The lyrics, the sound, the tempo – it affects you on the deepest level and melts the stress away even if it’s for a brief moment.


You can recreate that feeling. Take the music that speaks to your soul and create a playlist. 5-10 minutes of music each morning can get you pumped and ready to start the day. Or you can do something different and create a playlist of soothing nature sounds such as birds, the rain, or the flow of the tide.


Perfection - Let It Go

We’re bombarded by fake perfection everywhere we turn – social media, movies, magazines etc. It’s hard to get away from it and even harder to measure up to these unattainable examples.


Because none of us are perfect. For this reason, it’s so important to let go of the idea that you need to be perfect. When you allow yourself to get caught up with having the most ‘perfect’ life, your mental, physical and emotional health can suffer.


Take care of yourself, do what is right for you and your family and be intentional about the choices you make. Life is a unique journey for all of us – stop trying to measure up to something that isn’t even part of your story. It will stress you out, which is not good self-care.


Pets


A fish tank
My fishies!


Ever heard the phrase, “pets are people too?” I love it.  This phrase speaks to how ingrained they are in our lives and how much we love them. Studies have shown that having a pet can lead to lowered blood pressure and less stress. 


If you want to be around animals without all of the responsibility, try borrowing a friend’s pet for a playdate or volunteer at your local shelter.


Positive Self-Talk

Words are powerful. Which is why it’s important to pay attention to the words you use when you speak to yourself. Are those words encouraging and positive or negative and spiteful? Everyone suffers from negative self-talk from time to time. However, when your inner voice constantly criticizes your every flaw and makes you feel unworthy, that’s a problem.


Negative self-talk damages your health and self-esteem long before you even realize what’s happening. Awareness is the first step. Start by challenging each negative thought as it happens and replacing it with a positive one. It’s time to talk that positive self-talk.


Reading


A book floating in a library
Reading is Fundamental


If you’re a reader – you get this!  Reading is one of my personal favorite forms of self-care.  Reading opens your imagination and allows you to explore worlds completely different from your everyday life. If reading isn’t your jam, then try listening to an audiobook.  It’s easier to do while you’re on the go and can provide some of the same benefits as reading.



Shower

You might be thinking, “shower how is that self-care?!” But hear me out.  You can easily turn your shower into a luxury experience to add some self-care into your day.  Besides using hydrating body washes or lotions, you can use scent to make your shower an indulgent experience. 


Eucalyptus is invigorating. It helps to wake you up and calm you down. You can tie a bunch of eucalyptus leaves to your showerhead to activate the scent when you shower.


An alternative to using eucalyptus leaves is to use a shower steamer.  Shower steamers have a similar consistency to a bath bomb. You place them in the bottom of your shower and as the water/steam hits the steamer, it releases its scent into the air. They come in a variety of scents so experiment and find the one that works best for you.


Sleep

Sleep is so important for your overall health and wellness. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation impacts your physical, mental and emotional health and has been linked to depression, anxiety, weight gain and so many more negative side effects. It’s much harder to cope with the daily stress of life when you’re walking around in a groggy daze and you can’t possibly operate at 100%. Think about it. When you have a night where you don’t sleep, and you have to perform the next day how hard is it to do what you need to do? I’ve been there, it can be really difficult.


How can you improve your sleep?


Consider starting an evening routine for yourself. Try going to bed at the same time every night and turn off all electronic devices an hour before so your brain has some downtime. Use that time to read, meditate or journal. Sleep is vital and a great place to begin on your self-care journey.



Spoil Yourself

Because of your caregiving duties, have you ever neglected your own needs, because you’re too busy saying yes to everyone else? Probably too often. Remember #4 on this list – saying “no” to create boundaries? Well, now it’s time to start saying yes to yourself. It’s important to have a little indulgence once in a while. After all, if you don’t take care of yourself, who will?


Your indulgence doesn’t have to be anything that breaks the bank – just take a little time out for YOU. Treat yourself to a good book or a relaxing massage. Buy yourself your favorite snack and eat it with zero guilt. Take a short road trip and explore someplace you’ve always wanted to go. Try a bold new lipstick. Blast your favorite music and have a dance party in the kitchen. Put your needs first for once and make spoiling yourself a priority.



Tech Disconnect



A cellphone disconnected from its power source.
Tech Disconnect


Today technology has, for many of us, become our lifeline to the world. It’s quite common to rarely spend a moment without your phone, scrolling mindlessly through social media to fill up time. In fact, a great deal of us spend more time scrolling through the highlights of other people’s lives than we do on our own self-care. It’s time to turn that around. Take a break from social media and allow yourself to be fully present in the here and now.


How?


Notice how much time you spend on social media each day. Set boundaries by checking social media only at certain times during the day. Turn off your notifications. Consider using apps that will help limit your access to social media, so you won’t be tempted to peek. Social media addiction is a very real thing and can negatively affect your mental and physical wellbeing if you don’t use it judiciously.


Set a goal of having a tech disconnect. You can do this for an hour each day, a few hours a week or one day a month.  Whatever works for you. During your tech disconnect, you’ll turn off all devices, tv, I-pad, smart phone, etc.  This will allow you to have more time to spend with loved ones, read, sleep or whatever it is that you like to do to relax.


Time Out




Life can be busy, messy, and out of control. When life gets overwhelming it’s okay to give yourself permission to take a brief break. Allowing yourself a breather lets you collect your thoughts and work through the problem in a reasonable way.


When you feel the need to take a break, try stepping outside to breathe some fresh air. Or if you have a busy household, you can close the bathroom door and sit for a few minutes. Try putting your headphones on and blare your music or find an empty room in the house and sit in silence.


If you have difficulty making time for breaks, there are plenty of free apps you can use to help you schedule a “time out” session or two every day.



Toxicity - Be Gone!

One way of putting yourself first is by eliminating those who bring you down. Look at the people in your life – friends, family, co-workers. Then ask yourself, do they support you and push you to be the best version of yourself? Or do they discourage you from success and drain you with their negativity?


Let go of anyone who spends more time putting you down instead of building you up. Establish firm boundaries or cut ties with any relationship that makes you feel less than. You don’t need people in your life that distract you or direct you away from who you’re meant to be.



Vision Board



Travel related images on a vision board
A section of my vision board


Engaging in self-care is not just about caring for your current self, it’s also about caring for your future self. Vision boards allow you to ‘envision’ what you want out of life. Creating a vision board is an active way of creating your future life – today.


A vision board helps you to think about and keep your mind on the things you can do to improve yourself and steps necessary to get from A to B. It’s about bringing those wants, needs, hopes and dreams to the surface and putting out an intentional affirmation that you believe in yourself enough to achieve them.


You can use your vision board for anything that you can imagine – the outcomes you would like from your caregiving relationship, your career aspirations, your travel bucket list – whatever you desire.


The best way to incorporate your vision board into your daily life is to place it someplace where you’ll see it every day. And make an effort to spend 5 – 10 minutes reviewing your board.


Volunteer

You might be thinking, “Cassandra, are you crazy?! I’m a family caregiver how the heck am I supposed to find time to volunteer?” Well, here me out, volunteering feeds into what I believe is one of our purposes here on earth – to help others.  And by volunteering yes, you’re helping others, but you’re also helping yourself.


Volunteering is a form of self-care.


Nowadays it’s so easy.  You don’t have to spend hours traveling somewhere or delivering something.  You can volunteer from the comfort of your home. Maybe you like to knit or sew, you can make caps or booties for preemies.  Maybe you enjoy books, you can read books on tape for visually impaired people. Maybe you have a skill like marketing. You can create a simple social media campaign for a small business.  The possibilities are endless!


Walk


purple sneakers on grass
These feet are made for walking!


Making the time to take a walk each day is one of the simplest ways to prioritize self-care. Walking can reduce stress, lighten your mood and help you feel better overall. One of the things that makes walking so wonderful is that it’s a natural energy booster – no caffeine needed! 😊


Take 10-15 minutes out of your day to step outside and breathe in some fresh air. Consider combining your tech disconnect with your daily walk to allow you to be more in touch with your thoughts. That way you give yourself the gift of being fully present. This allows you to mindfully connect to nature and notice those things you would have otherwise missed while scrolling mindlessly through your phone.



Watch Your Words




It's important to pay attention to the words you use when you speak to yourself. Are those words encouraging and positive or negative and spiteful? Everyone engages in negative self-talk from time to time. However, when your inner voice constantly criticizes your every flaw and makes you feel unworthy, that’s a problem.


Negative self-talk damages your health and self-esteem long before you even realize what’s happening. Awareness is the first step. Start by challenging each negative thought as it happens and replacing it with a positive one. It’s time to talk that positive self-talk.


Bonus - Morning & Evening Routines

Many of the activities listed here could easily be incorporated into a morning routine. Having a morning routine helps you start your day in a positive way. It helps to prepare you for the day ahead and depending on the activities you’ve chosen, can help you get one step closer to your goals.


It’s easy to get started. Decide how long your morning routine is going to last each day, which activities you are going to do as part of your morning routine and in which order.  If you can prepare for your morning routine the night before, do it.  An example would be laying out your exercise clothes so that you can grab them and go. 



Similary to the morning routine, you should decide how long your evening routine is going to be, your activities and their order. Ideally, your evening routine can take place 1 hour to 30 minutes prior to bedtime to signal to your body that it's time to rest.


If you’re thinking about creating a morning or evening routine, I’d say go for it! A morning or evening routine just may be the ultimate form of self-care.



So there you have it. Self-care is vital for your overall health and happiness. It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort, just a commitment that you are going to start showing yourself more love, simply because you deserve it. 😊 It’s important to be patient with yourself as you go through the process. With small, simple steps each day, you can transform into the best possible version of yourself and begin changing the course of your life.

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Let’s talk, what are you going to incorporate into your self-care routine? Let me know in the comments section.


Note: This post was orginally published in 2021.

 

Cassandra sitting in front of a white brick wall

Cassandra Martin-Himmons, LMSW is a stress management coach and content creator who believes in empowering her clients to help them manage their stress and increase their self-care. In her spare time she enjoys papercrafting, hand embroidery and travel. Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook or YouTube

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