Whether as a parent, partner, child, or friend, we all experience times in life when we act as caregivers for other people. The role of caregiver can be exhausting and stressful, with many needs and tasks to handle each day.

Being the primary caregiver for a loved one is a situation rife with chronic stressors. With children, it may be the stress of keeping them fed, clothed, educated, entertained, and socialized. For older parents, it may be regular healthcare appointments, managing medications and therapies, and preventing loneliness.

If we’re not careful, caring for other people can lead to depression, stress, and lower feelings of well-being. (1)

Neglecting personal wellness can feel unavoidable. When the focus is on taking care of someone else, stepping away to care for ourselves can produce feelings of guilt or even additional stress.

As much as self-care is critical to being a good caregiver, it can also be challenging to fit in.

Making Self-care a Priority

Making Self-care a Priority

It is easy to put the needs of others ahead of our own. Speaking up and advocating for what we need is especially difficult when a loved one has high care needs.

The idea that caring for our own needs is separate from the care we give to others is false. Our ability to be kind and empathetic towards others is directly related to how well we tend to our own physical, mental and emotional health. (2)

We must be proactive and find self-care techniques that are doable and promote our well-being. Here are four ideas:

1. Talk to a Support Person

The emotional support provided by a friend or loved one is invaluable. Having another person to talk to improves mental outlook and decreases stress. (3) Take time every day to be supported by someone else.

Talk to a Support Person

2. Meditate

Meditation decreases stress, prevents burnout, and improves feelings of well-being. (4) It is also easily accessible and you can practice it in short increments that fit your daily schedule. As a result, this makes it ideal for over-burdened caregivers. Meditation can be done anywhere at any time, even in quiet moments after meeting someone else’s needs.

3. Do One Thing That Brings You Joy Every Day

It doesn’t have to be complicated, but every day should contain one activity focused on bringing ourselves joy. It could be reading a book, quietly enjoying a cup of coffee, getting lost in our favorite music on a car ride, or engaging in a favorite hobby. Plan one thing each morning and take time to enjoy the simple pleasure.

Do One Thing That Brings You Joy Every Day

4. Take a Walk Outside

Being outdoors is soothing, decreases stress hormones, and improves mood. (5) This is another ideal habit for caregivers as it is a high pay-off for minimal effort. For instance, walking even a few times around the block can be enough to restore you.

Take a Walk Outside

Self-care Cares for Everyone

It is not selfish to prioritize self-care. Engaging in healthy habits that preserve mental, physical, and emotional health is a gift we give ourselves and a gift that greatly benefits everyone around us. Especially the people who need us the most.

We can’t give from an empty well. Do things that fill you up and make you happy, so you will have even more to give to those you love.