After years spent as an active field nurse, a nurse supervisor, a clinical leader, and a mom, Aveanna Clinical Operations Specialist Jacqueline Holland knows just how hard it can be to find realistic ways to take care of yourself. Jacque has managed to find her own balance while juggling responsibilities to her work, her family, and herself. To help you do the same, she wants to share five practical self-care activities caregivers of medically fragile children can use to stay centered and avoid caregiver burnout.
Pick up a hobby
Hobbies are important for relaxing and recovering after those long days of caregiving. For Jacque, reading is the perfect hobby because it can be done in any spare time that she has. While reading works for Jacque, it may not right for everyone. When picking your own hobby, think of activities you enjoy that can be engaged in for either short or long periods of time. Some days you will only have five minutes and other days you may have an hour. Whatever time you have, use it to refocus on you.
Find someone to talk to
One of the easiest and least costly self-care tactics is talking to someone about your day. Find someone to connect with and to share stressors with in confidence. This confidant could be another caregiver or it could be a friend who knows nothing about caregiving but is willing to listen and learn. You just need someone who will let you vent your worries and frustrations so that you can leave them behind at the end of the day.
Eat, sleep, and exercise
You’ve heard this one a million times, and with good reason! Jacque explains that the things that give you energy (like sleep, nutrition, and exercise) must come first because without them you cannot do your job. As difficult as taking the time to care for your body can be, it is vital to proper self-care. There are plenty of simple changes you can make to stay healthy. Bring nutritious snacks and lunches with you to work. If you don’t have time for a long walk, try a short jog instead. Make sleeping at least seven hours a night a priority. These small changes can make a big difference.
Laughter is Jacque’s favorite self-care activity. A little more humor in your day will make a world of difference in lowering your stress level. In the moment, laughter can increase your release of endorphins and relax your muscles. Making a habit of laughing often has even been known to improve your immune system. What could be better for a caregiver? Surround yourself with people and things that make you laugh – it will benefit both you and your patient!
Practice deep breathing
One thing Jacque makes sure to do every day is to stop for a few minutes to monitor her breathing. This activity is perfect for busy caregivers – it hardly takes any time at all but is incredibly effective in relieving stress. You don’t have to be an expert or even have a lot of time to do deep breathing exercises. Just take a moment here and there throughout your day to breathe deeply in and out. If you would like to know more about the “stress response,” the benefits of deep breathing, and how to practice taking deep breaths, check out this Harvard Health article.
Caregivers are usually the last to take care of themselves, but they should be the first! Your health lays the foundation for the health of those you care for. Whatever self-care activities you engage in, be sure to take time to take care of you.