Ask the Expert – The Importance of Self-Care

The Importance of Self-Care

 

It’s Spring time, in Alabama, which means, unpredictable weather. As I look across the sky, I see storm clouds brewing. Yesterday was warm, beautiful, and sunny. As a parent, caregiving is a natural role I had to embrace many years ago. Caregiving is hard. Caring for someone with a disability or challenge is harder.

One day may be perfect, everyone is feeling good, schedules are intact, and we are arriving on time to appointments. Then the next day, those clouds start brewing, and one small event leads to a stormy, out of sort’s day.  That is the challenge of caregiving and it can make you or break you.

I learned long ago that I could not control everything around me. It was a hard life lesson. The more I tried to control everything, the more I miserably failed. I would carry guilt, anger, and frustration with me to the point that I physically became ill. And we all know the saying, “When mama isn’t happy, no one is happy.” That’s when I learned a valuable lesson about self-care.

Self-care is not a selfish act, nor is it taking away from the very people you are care giving. Self-care is actually maintenance so that you can take on those challenges that comes with caring for others. Here are a few tips to help you prepare to start the process of self-care.

  • Listen to your own needs. That small voice inside will tell you but you must first allow it to speak and listen to it. If you are tired, you need rest. If you are lonely, you need comfort. If you are overwhelmed, you need help. Sometimes just acknowledging these needs without the feeling of guilt, or other emotional barriers is the hardest task to overcome.  How do you overcome these barriers?  You become honest with yourself and acknowledge that you are only human. Also realize that you are not alone, there are millions of caregivers just like you and taking care of yourself is not selfish, it’s self-preservation.
  • Give yourself permission to ask for help. Sometimes we believe it’s just easier if we do it ourselves. Letting go of control is hard, especially when you feel something may not be done the correct way or the way you prefer it be completed. It’s okay to train a back-up person to help you.   What I have found is that the biggest compliment you can give another is the ability to trust them and allow them to help you.
  • Savor the moments of goodness. Remember, we cannot predict the weather, but we can count on storms, therefore, in the moments of sun and warmth, savor them. If you are having a good day, take a moment to embrace it, absorb it, and spend time in that moment, if just for that moment. Be thankful, for even in the darkest of storms, you need only to look around and count your blessings. It will plant seeds of gratefulness for those exhausting days when you just feel like things are falling apart.

Of course, basic self-care is taking care of your body, exercising, good nutrition, and getting plenty of rest. But the foundation of learning the art of self-care starts first and foremost within yourself. Remember, we cannot always control everything around us, like the weather, but we can always prepare for the storm, so that we can become the best of ourselves for those we care for the most.

Nanci Scarpula, an Early Intervention Service Coordinator for United Ability’s Hand In Hand Early Intervention Program, is a regular contributer to local and regional publications.  To learn more about how our Early Intervention Program might benefit someone you care about, contact Jessica Letson at 944-3939.

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