Care Corner: Tips for Self-Care
Written by Penn FTD Center Social Worker, Kate Lietz, MSW, LSW
We have officially entered 2023 and conversations about resolutions and taking time for “self-care” abound in our social circles and workplaces. We often hear about self-care and how important it is, but what does it really mean and how can it be made attainable for care-partners who may already feel overwhelmed by never ending to-do lists?
Self-care can be defined by any number of activities and practices. Some might think of bubble baths and face masks, while others might call to mind exercise or weekly therapy. Defining self-care is personal – to make it meaningful, it needs to be something that brings you peace, joy, or makes a positive step towards improving, or maintaining, your well-being.
When caring for another person, it may feel impossible to find time for these moments dedicated to you, and you alone. It is important to remember that these do not have to be large or time-consuming activities. Even the smallest steps can culminate in a meaningful change.
To make self-care attainable, I often recommend care-partners brainstorm a “self-care plan,” where they consider some of the following questions:
What are some signs you need a break?
Who can you go to for support?
What is an affirmation you can say to yourself?
What is an activity that brings you joy?
I often encourage care-partners to physically write down the answers to these questions. It can be on paper, in your phone notes, or in a text to yourself. I’ve also created a self-care outline worksheet which you may find helpful: Self-Care Worksheet
Wherever it is, having it documented can improve the likelihood that you will actually use the plan when you need it most. When a tough day or moment arises, I suggest referring to the document, and depending on the amount of time and energy you have, choosing something from your plan to do in that moment. Knowing every day will look different, it can be helpful to pre-plan a few activities that require varying amounts of time.
Ideas for self-care when you only have a minute…
Say an affirmation to yourself
Take one deep breath, or complete one minute of guided breath work
Use a signal word, such as saying “stop” quietly to yourself to try to pause an anxious thought pattern
Ideas for self-care when you have 10-20 minutes…
Call a loved one
Get out into fresh air and take a few deep breaths
Write down a short gratitude list
Make yourself a favorite snack or drink
Read a passage of a book/text that brings you peace
Listen to a favorite song
Ideas when you have more time…
Get out of the house
Visit a loved one
Watch a favorite show or movie
Engage in joyful exercise
Cook a meal or treat you love
Speak with a trusted person, therapist, or counselor
Join a support group or supportive program
Creating this plan is an act of self-care! Caregiving is challenging, and the cold of the winter months can often add an extra stressor, so be gentle with yourself. You might not always remember to use your plan or get to every activity on your list – that is OK! Self-care is imperfect, and any little way you can show up for yourself is a great step.
If you would like to discuss creating a plan in more detail, or feel like you need additional support, you can reach me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.