As a family caregiver, you may frequently feel overwhelmed or exhausted. The act of caregiving alone puts a lot of weight on your shoulders. Pair that with juggling the rest of life’s responsibilities: a job, children or grandchildren in your care, etc., and you may find yourself struggling to keep up. Too often, family caregivers who are caring for a friend or family member neglect their own health in favor of their loved one’s. The goal of this article is to give you 50+ ideas of pleasurable self-care activities to reduce the stress you’re under.
Why You Should Take Care of Your Mental Health
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, caregivers are far more likely than the general populace to experience one (or many) of the following:
Poor eating habits
Failure to exercise
Failure to stay in bed when ill
Postponement of or failure to make medical appointments for themselves
As a caregiver, you’re also at a higher risk of mental health problems due to the constant stress you’re under. By operating yourself at a sub-optimal level, the care you provide will also be sub-optimal. You may find yourself more frustrated with your loved one than you should be, beyond reasonably stressed and exhausted, or behind on or altogether forgetting tasks you normally would be able to manage.
This is not something to feel additional stress or guilt over. Instead, it’s a learning opportunity - ask yourself, “how can I improve my health in a way that improves the care of my loved one?”
A quick answer to that question: make self-care a priority.
50 Ideas and Activities to Boost Your Mood and Health
Walk in the park
Have a manicure/pedicure
Watch a movie
Fly a kite
Listen to music
Write in a journal
Take a nap
Watch a sunset
Play an instrument
Eat by candlelight
Give a hug
Play with a pet
Go to the beach
Get a massage
Go to the mountains
Talk with a friend
Look at the moon
Talk to a therapist
Hold a baby
Take a warm bath
Go to a symphony
Clear out and donate old clothes
Bake a cake
Share a story
Read a good book
Look into part-time respite care
Call a friend
Make a scrapbook
Hire someone to deep clean the house
Buy yourself a gift
Make your favorite meal
Book Recommendations for Caregivers
Often, one of the best things we can do for our mental health is to talk to someone that understands us. If there’s no one you can think of or feel comfortable talking to about the stresses of your situation, it can become all too easy to isolate ourselves from others and suffer in silence.
If you feel there’s no one to talk to, here are some recommendations of books relevant to, written by, or written for caregivers - books written by people who understand you. Reading some of these books may help you either feel encouraged to speak to someone, or simply feel comforted by the thought that there is someone who understands.
Caregiver Helpbook by Legacy Caregiver Services (also in Spanish)
Caregiving 101 by Donna Trickett
A Caregiver’s Journey by Karen L. Twichell
A Bittersweet Season: Caring for your Aging Parents and Ourselves by Jane Gross
Caring for Your Aging Parent by Raeann Burman, Bernard Shulman M.D.
They’re Your Parents Too! How Siblings Can Survive Their Parents Aging Without
Driving Each Other Crazy by Francene Russo
I’ll Take Care of You: A Practical Guide for Family Caregivers by Joseph A. Ilardo, Carole R. Rothman
Caregiving: The Spiritual Journey of Love, Loss, and Renewal by Beth Witrogen McLeod
Alzheimer Caregiving: Lessons from a Surviving Spouse by Richard J. Farrell
Alzheimer Diary a Wife’s Journal by Michelle Montgomery
The 36-Hour Day by Nancy L. Mace M.A., Peter V. Rabins M.D. M.P. H.
The Magic of Humor in Caregiving by James R. Sherman
Chicken Soup for the Caregiver’s Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, LeAnn Thieman L.P.N., Rosalyn Carter
Helping Yourself Help Others by Rosalyn Carter, Susan Golant M.A.
Ambiguous Loss by Pauline Boss
Take Comfort, Reflections of Hope for Caregivers by Denise M. Brown
Take Comfort, Too: Reflections of Hope for Caregivers by Denise M. Brown
A Dignified Life by Virginia Bell M.S.W., David Troxel M.P.H.
Counting on Kindness by Wendy Lustbader
When Life Becomes Precious by Elise Babcock
Another Country by Mary Pipher, Ph.D
No Death no Fear: Comforting Wisdom for Life by Thich Nhat Hanh
Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s a mantra that has gained popularity in recent years, but for good reason. The science is clear that your health matters for the health and care of your loved one, so it isn’t selfish to take time to care for yourself too. Instead, it’s essential.
For further reading and resources in Orange County, we invite you to check out our library of information for family caregivers by clicking here. You are also welcome to give us a call at 800-543-8312 to find out more about how we can support you in your caregiving journey.