Why Caring For Someone Else Should Begin With Yourself
Mindful Cook and Age Space friend – Josie Buck shares her expert advice on taking time to look after yourself.
In my role as a cook and coach on retreats I have met many full-time caregivers. The good news about that is that the people I have met have made time for themselves to take some much needed respite, but I am very aware that it can often be quite difficult to take the decision to do so.
Finding time for yourself when you are looking after an elderly person can be hard, not just because you are so pressed for time, but because you may also feel guilty doing so. Problems like sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, a failure to exercise and take time out are common among caregivers, and coupled with attitudinal challenges such as feelings of guilt if you put your own needs first, stress from juggling tasks, or fear that you might not be able to cope financially or otherwise, all take a toll on your wellbeing.
The age old adage is true though, it is only when we look after ourselves that we are better able to look after others. When you are looking after yourself the people around you benefit, and likewise, neglecting your own wellbeing can have a detrimental effect on you and those around you. A little self awareness and self care really can do wonders for your wellbeing.
Possibly the most important stage in the process is to identify your feelings and needs. A tool I use when coaching is the wheel of self care. It is helpful tool to evaluate how you are feeling about the areas of your life that contribute to a feeling of wellbeing .
The sections of the wheel each represent an area of your life that you can grade from 1-10 by simply placing a line in the segment close to the number you feel best represents your feelings (1 being weak/ low and 10 being strong/high). Once you have done that you have a visual representation of where in your life you are feeling satisfied and where satisfaction is lacking.
Once you have identified the weak spots, you can give a little consideration to how you might improve things. If you are reading this thinking, ‘but there’s just not enough time for this kind of thing’, then read on.
Just 10 Mins a Day and make it routine
We tend to rationalise self neglect by telling ourselves that, “there’s not enough time,” or “too many people need me.” But, as I mentioned earlier, the truth is, if we ignore our dissatisfaction with areas of our own life, then that can have a negative effect on how we feature in other people’s lives.
Consider the things you do every day: You go to work, you eat, you pack lunch for the kids, you shower. You manage to get everything that is necessary done —even on the really busy days – because they are hard-coded into your routine. You don’t have to think about how to fit them in. The answer to creating time for yourself therefore, is to make it routine.
If you really feel that you don’t have anytime to spend on yourself, perhaps the thought of just taking 10 minutes a day is not so daunting?
These days, everyone is pressed for time. Self-help phone apps like Headspace, the meditation tool, recognise that and demonstrate that all we need is 10 minutes a day to nurture a sense of wellbeing.
A 10 minute walk, a 10 minute meditation, 10 minutes in the park, 10 minutes a day to plan meals, a 10 minute chat with a friend, going to bed 10 minutes earlier or 10 minutes with a cuppa on your own. Just 10 minutes really can make a huge difference and embedding that into your routine so that you can look forward to it everyday can definitely lift your spirits.
If you can afford more time, great! And if you can take a longer break like a holiday or weekend away that takes you away from home and your commitments at least once a year, even better.
And Finally, Just Ask
This is important. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even if your brother/sister/other person who might be able to provide support, is on the other side of the country, or holding down a busy job, don’t be fearful of asking for their time. Whilst it may not be possible to share the load on a full time basis, they should be happy to step in from time-to-time to allow you the time to have a break.