Written by Dr. Eric Perry, PhD
Image Credit: Pixabay
“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” ~Oscar Wilde
In one way or another, we are all caretakers. Caretaking can be found in all aspects of life. Some of us are caretakers in a professional capacity. We may work in mental health, the medical field, or other professions that require us to take care of others. Others assume the role of a caretaker in their daily lives as parents or in other familial relationships. I believe that taking care of a loved one when it is not your profession is one of the most rewarding as well as one of the most difficult roles a person can have.
In my work as a mental health professional, I come across many caretakers who forget the golden rule of self-care, “Be as kind to yourself as you are to a friend.” As caretakers, we all need to understand the importance of caring for ourselves. It is not a selfish indulgence, it is a necessity in order for us to recharge and be well. It is essential for all of us. We all need self-care to fill our souls and minds with the necessary fuel in order to be strong enough to care for those around us and most importantly to care for ourselves. Self-care is highly personal and will differ from person to person in relation to one’s life and duties, but there is one core element that must be present and this is self-love.
I would like to inspire you to get addicted to self-care. Make self-care a habit and part of your life. In a recent study from 2009, researchers found that on average it takes 66 days for a habit to become ingrained. Some habits may take a shorter amount of time and others may take much longer. The key to adopting new behaviors is to make them a routine and not go back to old behaviors. I want to challenge you to start a ritual of self-care behaviors so that they become part of your everyday life. Remember, you are worth every single moment you spend on yourself!
Here are 3 steps to create a self-care plan:
1. YOU are number one
The first thing you must realize is that you are the most important person in your life. You must be your number one. It is imperative that you take care of yourself mentally and physically as well or better than you take care of anyone else. Imagine yourself in the driver’s seat of a very large car. In the car is everyone you care for in one way or another. In order to take care of everyone in this car, it is vital that you first take care of yourself. The journey of life is long and there will be many passengers accompanying you. You cannot fall asleep at the wheel. You need to be healthy and alert for any unexpected turns and events that may appear on the route. You need to ask yourself what habits do you need to implement to perform at your optimum level and make the appropriate changes.
2. Take an inventory of your physical health
Have an honest reflection about your overall physical health. When was the last time you had a physical? A yearly physical checkup should be a big part of your self-care. A doctors visit will assure you that everything is running correctly and that you are on the right path. Implement changes one at a time and if you happen to miss a day don’t give up! Remember it took a lifetime to create some of your behaviors so give yourself a break if you happen to stumble.
Here are some ways to take care of your physical health. You may want to include some of your own.
a) Have a regular sleep routine
b) Eat a balanced diet as often as you can
c) Continue or start an exercise program
d) Take your lunch breaks
e) Use your sick and vacation days from work
Work will survive without you and I promise it will be there when you get back!
3. Mental health
A balanced mind and body are essential to good health. Many times we are so focused on our physical health that we forget to check in on our mental health. It is important for self-care that we do not neglect how we are feeling.
Here are some ways to check in with yourself:
a) Be mindful of your stress-level
On a scale of one to ten, how do you feel? Some of us may have a higher tolerance than others and be able to tolerate more stress. Respect how you feel and do not wait until you are at level 10 to take a step back. Decide beforehand at what level it is time to take a break and give yourself permission to disengage from whatever you are doing.
As a mental health professional, I believe in the therapeutic benefits of talking. Whether you choose a professional or a close friend it is important to talk. This is a great way to make sense of what is manifesting in your life and to help you determine if professional help is needed.
c) Practice relaxation techniques
Whether its something as simple as a walk or something more complicated like playing an instrument. Do something that relaxes you.
d) Stay connected with family and friends
e) Spend some quality time with yourself
It is imperative that you set aside time for yourself. You can decide how much time and how often. Remember, if you do not replenish yourself you will not be able to take care of yourself much less anyone else.
I would love to know in what capacity you serve as a caretaker and how do you take care of yourself?
The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a therapeutic relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a mental health professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific mental health questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
M.A. in Clinical Psychology
B.A. in Psychology
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