15 Self-Care Tips For Caregivers

Simple strategies for caregivers to preserve and maintain a sense of self.

  1. Go for a walk, do yoga, tai chi or any pleasurable movement activity.
  2. Get outdoors every day, whether that means walking in nature, exercising your dog or gardening.
  3. Practise saying no without the need to justify. If you feel you need to add words, then “No, thank you” or “No, that won’t work for me today” are both fine things to say.
  4. Practise deeper breathing. Deep breathing to a slow count activates our parasympathetic nervous system and calms the body:

    Inhale at a slow and steady pace for a count of four and exhale slow and steady for a count of four or five. As you practise, increase to a count of six or eight.
    You can add a slight pause at the top of the inhale before exhaling with control for your count.
    Hold a brief pause at the end of your exhale as you develop better breath control.
    Do this a few times a day or as often as you like for up to 20 minutes.

  5. Spend time with people who make you happy, or take time to call a friend.
  6. Laugh at least once a day. If you can’t find anything to chuckle at, keep a book of jokes or humour to read from each day.
  7. Pray, meditate or reflect on something you are grateful for daily. We can all think about and be grateful for many of the things we have in our life, and many of the things we don’t.
  8. Nurture your hobby of choice. If you have more than one, choose at least one to maintain. Pick one thing you love to do and refuse to let it go—even if you do it for only five minutes.
  9. Eat healthy foods. Avoid emotional eating. Replace that with some deep breathing or something you can do with your hands.
  10. Eat one piece of fruit you like each day. It is nourishing for your body, and a sweet snack. (Here are the healthiest fruits you can buy.)
  11. Take care of your health and make sure you maintain your own regular and necessary health-care appointments: medical, dental, massage therapy and so on.
  12. Tell yourself three times, at least once a day or as often as you need to, “It is okay to take time for me.” Or replace this with another permission-granting mantra of your choice.
  13. Be sure to do something that brings you pleasure each day.
  14. Start a journal: for gratitude, for simple thoughts or just to note what is happening each day. Getting our thoughts down can be therapeutic, but the very act of holding a pen or pencil can also be soothing.
  15. Get adequate rest and sleep. If you need to access help, then do so. It is hard to function, let alone cope, without feeling sufficiently rested. (Here’s expert advice on how to get a good night’s sleep.)

Kimberly Fraser, Ph.D., is a retired nurse and former professor of nursing at the University of Alberta. She ran a home health-care business in Edmonton and was the past president of the non-profit Caregivers Alberta.

Excerpted from The Accidental Caregiver, by Dr. Kimberly Fraser. Copyright © 2022, Dr. Kimberly Fraser. Published by Sutherland House Books. Reproduced by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.

Now that you’ve got these self-care tips for caregivers in your toolkit, check out 10 mental health podcasts worth adding to your playlist.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada