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6 ways to keep up self-care while caring for others

| Healthy You | Mental Health

woman sitting on the floor doing a meditation

Caring for yourself is not selfish — in fact, it’s key in being able to better care for others.

On every flight, the flight attendants make a point to say, “put on your oxygen mask before helping others.” That’s because you can’t help other people effectively without also taking care of yourself. 

When a loved one is sick or in need of hands-on care, it can often be just as stressful for the caregiver as it is for the one with the illness. If you're caring for a loved one, it can be easy to try to do everything yourself and later feel worn out or exhausted.

“As caregivers we take pride in caring for others and feel a sense of honor or privilege in doing so,” says Amy Gruber, PsyD, a PeaceHealth licensed clinical psychologist. “How remarkable would it be if we could redirect that same love and compassion that we dole out to others toward ourselves?”

Here are some ways you can tend to your own well-being while caring for others:

  1. Don't be afraid to say no. Take time for yourself when you need it. If possible, find someone who can take your spot for a day so you can have time to yourself.
  2. Be honest with yourself and those around you. Do your best not to overcommit to tasks. It’s possible that your loved one needs expert care. If you can, find outside help from resources that specialize in home care.
  3. Don't delay your own care. Keep attending your own doctor’s appointments and managing your health needs. Take a moment to yourself by going on a walk or enjoying a coffee while catching up on the news. You may want to talk with a trained professional as they can help to see the situation in a clear way and avoid feeling guilty for not doing it all.
  4. Build a team. Find people in your life who you know you can count on. Reach out to them when you need a break or a helping hand. You may want to find someone who is knowledgeable in things such as benefits like Medicare or Medicaid.
  5. Delegate tasks. Can another family member pick up the prescriptions or grab the groceries this week? Distributing tasks like this can lift some of the responsibility off your shoulders.
  6. Ask your community. It’s likely that you already have a built-in community around you who would be willing to help or could share their experiences. Think about your fellow church members, neighbors or school parents. Perhaps one of them could look after your loved one every now and again, so you can do other important things.

“The impact of self-care is that we get to model for others how to prioritize and tend to oneself. We’re actually paving the path and giving permission for other to do so as well. In the end, it’s a reciprocal act.” Dr. Gruber said.

If you are caring for a loved one and need help, consider PeaceHealth Home and Community services.  Home and Community’s services are frequently used or required following a disability, illness, injury, surgery or hospitalization. Contact a member of our team today for to see if in-home care is right for your family.

portrait of Amy E. Gruber PSYD

Amy E. Gruber PSYD

Clinical Psychology

Amy E. Gruber PSYD practices Clinical Psychology in Vancouver.