Caring for yourself is just one subject I cannot get away from. Whether you are a nurse, going through a rough time, taking chemotherapy, or are a caregiver, one thing is for sure: taking care of yourself is a non-negotiable. I wanted to share a few ideas for self-care. I had originally written this for those going through chemotherapy. However, we all need to take time for our self care! This is for any one, especially caregivers! This can be self, (we do care for ourselves, right), moms, grandma’s, nurses, dad’s, siblings, children (caring for parents), and any other role where you are expending energy to care for an individual.
The past several months I have been involved in adding education to my coaching skills as a nurse. The Wellness Inventory training has been awesome by way of having me look at how I care for myself. It’s one thing to take training to learn to be the best coach. What has made this training different is I am looking at me first. What an eye opener. I want to share a few small steps to help you start on the self-care journey.
Taking time to acknowledge yourself as someone worthy to care for is a good place to start. Time after time I see caregivers totally deny their own care, while continuously at the bedside of a loved one. Take one minute right now, and acknowledge yourself as someone who is not being selfish by caring for your own self. What many caregivers fail to understand is when you don’t take time to refill, there is a time when the fuel runs out. You can’t run on empty. When you run on empty, your body will take from other vital places in yourself. When the crisis is over, all the areas neglected will cry out from the neglect and many times illness fills in the empty places. If you are the one receiving treatment, I have found many of my patients don’t take time just to be, or take thought for themselves. Often you carry a burden of being strong for others. Even in your own wellness journey you really neglect your own self. Above and beyond medical treatment is the emotional, mental, and spiritual self care. Acknowledging these other aspects of wellness is vital. I also take time to acknowledge my relationship with God. It is in the still quiet moments I find peace like no other time.
How often do you pay attention to your breathing? Get into a comfortable position. This may be in the recliner, on the bed, on the floor, the couch, or your most comfortable chair. Close your eyes and allow your mind to concentrate on your breathing. Notice how fast you are breathing. Notice how long your intake breath is and how long your output breath is. Where is your mind wandering to? Are you uncomfortable in just being still? If you notice your breathing feels restricted, readjust your position. Are you wearing clothes that allow non-restricted breathing? Try this for about a minute. After you are comfortable and relaxed with the process, then allow your mind to wander to something you have gratitude for. Think about gratitude for a few moments. Relax in the moment until you are ready, and then allow yourself to come back to the moment. How did this feel to you? Do you notice any difference in how you feel. You may feel resistance the first several times you try this. Don’t worry, you will start to look forward to it. We start every class with this exercise, and I now start every coaching session with this exercise. I personally go through this exercise when starting to feel I am in a stressful moment.
I wanted to convey awareness, so I found the word consciousness as a synonym for being aware. Take a walk and really become aware to your surroundings. Become aware to what you hear. Then pay attention to the smells. Look at details. Touch the grass, the leaves, the rocks. This may sound a little weird at first. This is just a simple exercise in awareness. You will be surprised at what you take for granted. Taking a walk is different than taking a walk to be aware. The next time you go to the grocery store, instead of checking off the items on the list and getting out as fast as you can, take a look at the people around you. Do they look happy? Smile at them. Watch children interact with their parents. Is there an elderly person there with an adult child helping them shop? Is anyone in a wheelchair? Smell the bakery. Allow all your sense to experience the moment. This all actually ties in with gratitude, acknowledgment and awareness. The exercises mentioned are just to help you become aware of yourself and your surroundings.
These A,B,Cs’ I have just mentioned are a very small start in beginning self-care. Realizing the need to take better care of yourself can be overwhelming in itself. You are thinking “where do I start”? As suggested, just start with a few short exercises to increase your awareness. Acknowledge one or two areas in your life, pay attention to your breathing, and increase your consciousness. Just taking a few minutes to stop the hustle and bustle, the activity, and the noise is a great start.
I found as I took a spin on the Wellness Inventory wheel the areas I most neglected were that of breathing, and taking time for myself. This insight has been instrumental as I have started my own wellness journey. Any change takes a first step. The Wellness Inventory Wheel has helped me target areas of growth and enabled me to prioritize my own plan for change. Using this tool is so insightful. I would love to share this tool with you and help you start on prioritizing your own wellness journey. I highly recommend this tool for any caregiver, and any person who is currently experiencing a wellness crisis.