Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit,
who is in you, whom you have received from God?
You are not your own; you were bought at a price.
Therefore honor God with your bodies.
(1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
If you’re deep in the throes of caregiving, you probably hear the “Take time to care for yourself” advice from multiple people. It sounds like an oxymoron. Who’s got time for that?
You shake your head and let the suggestion roll off your already-drooping shoulders. Who has time for ONE MORE THING when a loved one’s life hangs in the balance?
Maybe you care for someone whose disease moves in agonizing increments, one stolen memory at a time. Your caregiving tasks might seem so light that you don’t notice the build-up of burden, so you think you don’t NEED to give yourself any special attention. Trust me, you STILL need to practice healthy self-care.
CAREGIVER SELF-CARE IS NOT AN OXYMORON
Caregivers risk endangering both their physical and mental health when they fail to take care of themselves. I know. It happened to me. During my husband’s cancer journey, I failed to take care of myself.
Sure, I cashed in on a massage gift certificate that some kind soul gave me. One visit to the massage therapist in a year-long caregiving stint does not equal self-care. I quit exercising and started drowning my sorrows in eBay therapy (If anyone ever comments on the number of Longaberger baskets in my house, I might shrug and say that I like baskets. Now you know the real reason.). When eBay therapy wouldn’t suffice, I’d try Häagan-Dazs® therapy.
I should have joined a support group. That would have provided a much-needed self-care element to my life – and I never should have given up on exercise (although stress seemed like the perfect excuse for giving up something I didn’t like very much to begin with).
Don’t let anyone convince you that the term “caregiver self-care” is an oxymoron. It’s something that we need to build into our caregiver journeys systematically to avoid things like caregiver PTSD and compassion fatigue.
I CHALLENGE YOU TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!
It’s very important to take care of yourself, even when a loved one is in crisis. Self-care is not an act of selfishness. How can we care well for others if we neglect our own well-being? When we are kind and generous with ourselves, we can pour kindness and love into others. Make time to take care of yourself, because you are God’s beloved. If you aren’t sure where to start, our Self-Care pages offer many practical ideas.
Previously published at Blessed (but Stressed) April 2018. Published with permission.
Anita juggles writing at anitaojeda.com with teaching high school English and History at a small private school for Native Americans. When she's not lurking outdoors looking for and photographing rare birds in odd places, you can find her hanging out with her husband, camping with her kids, or mountain biking with her students.
Self-Care • Body & Community
Practicing physical self-care is showing your body simple kindness, generously giving it what it needs, and doing things that help you live well. Community is rooted in love, nourished in prayer, and strengthened in courageous vulnerability as we extend and receive love, kindness, and compassion.
Self-Care for your Emotions & Mind
Exercise your brain, keep your mind sharp, redirect your thoughts, and focus on what is positive and true with these ideas. Emotional self-care helps us to identify what we’re feeling and how to express it in healthy ways.