It All Begins With Self-Care

Caring for a friend or family member demonstrates love and commitment and can be very rewarding.  We want the best for them and will often place their needs above our own.  We think that putting others first is the best thing for them.  In reality, however, we cannot give our best when we are poorly nourished, sleep deprived, forgoing exercise or postponing routine medical visits.

We have all heard a story about the devoted care giver who sacrificed their own health to attend to the needs of a family member, only to end up in worse shape themselves.  Who will fill your shoes if you are unable to care for others due to your own health problems?

As a caregiver, you need to understand that taking care of yourself first is not selfish. In fact, it empowers you to accomplish all that you strive to do for your family. Furthermore, when you set a good example by taking care of yourself, others will notice and learn to do the same. Now let’s translate that healthy new attitude into action; start with the basics.

Eat healthy food. Find a healthy approach to diet and then practice it. Lifestyle changes can be challenging; commitment and patience are required. You will be surprised how quickly you will see and feel the benefits of better nutrition in yourself and your loved ones. Include others in planning, shopping and preparing meals. Involving the whole family, not only takes some of the burden off of you, but also is an opportunity to spend time together and teach good habits that will last a lifetime.

Exercise daily. Physical activity is important to prevent and treat many illnesses, including obesity, thinning bones, anxiety/depression, abnormal cholesterol, high blood pressure, chronic pain and even hot flashes. Not having enough time is a poor excuse for avoiding this very important part of healthy living. Ten minutes of time out of your busy schedule is a good way to start. It does not require membership to a gym or buying expensive equipment for the home. Make exercise part of your daily routine by parking your car at the far end of the parking lot, take the stairs instead of the elevator, dance to your favorite music, tune in to an exercise program on television or go for a walk at lunchtime. Moderate exercise is rejuvenating, not exhausting. You will have more stamina to accomplish many tasks. Include the family as another opportunity for spending quality time together. Children have energy to burn and it will get them away from the television and video games. You may be surprised that not only do you have the time to exercise, but that you are looking for more opportunities to do so.

Get the rest you need. When you get in the habit of a good night’s sleep, you will become mentally, emotionally and physically healthy. Practice good “sleep hygiene”. Avoid eating a large meal for 3-4 hours before bedtime. Keep regular bedtime hours. Turn off the TV, computer and phone. Blue light has a similar effect as the sun on our brain. Tell your brain it is time for sleep by turning down the lights, taking a refreshing shower and winding down. If you pay attention to your health, you will sleep better and awake refreshed. You will face each day with more energy, mental acuity and have a better attitude.

Feed your mind. The brain is like a muscle, it needs exercise. Read a book or magazine, work on crossword puzzles, learn something new. You can make this a group activity, too. Play a board game with the children or read to them. Sharing knowledge with a friend or partner is a great way to connect.

Get into the spirit. Spirituality is an important part of health that is often overlooked. We are all spiritual beings too. For your own benefit, as well as, that of your family and community, explore what that means to you. Whether it is prayer, meditation, lending a helping hand or simply enjoying nature, the rewards are immeasurable. This is a rewarding and meaningful part of life that forms strong family and social bonds.

Get a check up! Last, but certainly not least, get an annual physical and follow up with regular doctor visits for chronic medical problems. This will set a good example for your family and friends and do not forget; the healthier you are, the better caregiver you will be!


  1. Lori Harlan on October 29, 2020 at 2:52 pm

    Thank you, this is very helpful! I’m looking forward to more of your posts!

Leave a Comment