Use Labor Day for Caregiver Self-Care

September 3, 2018

Though the original intent behind Labor Day was to honor the contributions of workers, we know that family caregivers are often overlooked, despite their growing numbers.

Caregiving requires a lot of energy. You’re putting in hours of physical and emotional effort by coordinating transportation, helping with personal care, managing finances, making sacrifices, and more—all while balancing other life responsibilities like your professional work and other family needs.

And, unfortunately, that often means that you aren’t taking the breaks you need. In fact, you’re likely even spending holidays like Labor Day with your loved one—especially if you’re unable to make other arrangements because of the holiday.

So, how can you find time to recharge in between care tasks? Practicing self-care doesn’t have to be an hours-long activity. Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes, a few times a day, to make a difference in your state of mind, your day, and in turn what you can offer others.

Start small with these ideas:

  1. Enjoy quiet time to read a magazine, newspaper, or chapter from your book.
  2. Take a warm bath with lavender or other calming essential oils.
  3. Go for a short walk. Research suggests that even just 15 minutes a day of exercise can make a difference in your physical and mental health as well, reducing stress, depression, and even helping with sleep.
  4. Practice deep breathing. When you practice deep breathing, you focus on the “now,” not all your responsibilities and problems. By slowing down your breathing and taking deep, deliberate breaths, you can begin to experience relaxation and calm. One very simple breathing exercise that can be done almost anywhere (doctor’s waiting room, in line at the grocery store, or in bed) is to: Inhale through your nose for the count of 5, focusing on expanding your belly, hold your breath for a count of 3, and then exhale slowly through your mouth for 5. For more breathing exercises, visit here.
  5. Check in with yourself and your emotions—and vent! Being able to share your feelings and experiences with others can be one of the most valuable things you can do for yourself. While you may feel like you don’t have the time or that you are getting your emotional needs met from family and friends, sharing your experiences with people who are going through similar struggles, such as those in a caregiver support group, can make you feel less isolated and alone.
  6. Investigate other support services. Services like adult day health services or geriatric care management can provide huge relief by taking on some of your responsibilities.

Unsure where to begin? Need help investigating other support services? Iona can help! Our Helpline is staffed by licensed social workers Monday-Friday, from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Call (202) 895-9448 or email to get support. They can provide referrals to services at Iona or elsewhere, resources and support on planning ahead, communicating effectively with your loved one, finding respite, and practicing self-care.