Every time I see an article on Facebook telling me how much I need to practice self-care, I want to throat punch someone.
There always seems to be a picture of a spa, as if I have all of the time in the world to just walk away from all of my responsibilities and go to a spa. Don’t get me wrong, I love spas. It just isn’t a magic cure-all. Usually when I turn my phone back on before I leave the building, my phone has messages on it from someone needing my help. The irony makes me smile every time.
Who has the money for self-care? As a caregiver, I had to leave my job when my husband was critically injured. Why do all of the ideas of taking care of yourself require cash? That is not relaxing. Not at all. I spend enough time strategizing and budgeting to get us what we need and to make our dollars stretch.
So what is one to do besides dispense throat punches? I imagine those really are rewarding for stress management, but sadly the legal fees and being pulled away from those I care for would create more problems and work for me.
I am a caregiver to two people. I am also a mother to a fairly self-sufficient college junior. At any given moment all of the best laid plans can get a bomb dropped on them. Just the other day, I had just finished driving my husband to his pain management doctor and had about two hours in which I was going to go outside and try to pull some of the crazy weeds in my yard. My phone rang and it was my aunt, needing a last-minute ride to a doctor in our town. Fortunately, I was able to help her. I have learned to take those moments and make them fun. I usually tie in a lunch with her or a retail trip somewhere.
So what is a frugal, snarky caregiver supposed to do to recharge?
Book time in your calendar for things that purposely bring you joy and health. Mentally let go of the “to-do’s" as you know the work will be there for you no matter what. Take time away from it to focus on what you need.
I try to have fun with my family no matter what doctor or hospital waiting room we are stuck in. I have learned what amusements are around each office so if I need to get a walk in somewhere, I can. I know without burning off stress, this hamster wheel I call the caregiver life could burn me out.
Sit outside and think about what things really make you happy. Does being outdoors recharge you? Then go on walks or hikes. Those are free. What brings you joy? I know, you haven’t really thought about you as your own entity so this could be very foreign to you. It does seem mythical, like a big glittery unicorn.
Get your friends together at your house or theirs and have some good laughs. Pitch in together with your friends for some wine and cheese and be comfortable in your own home. Put on some good music on Spotify and relax and save money instead of going to a bar. Even more fun, have a few friends come over with their favorite wine and cheeses and everyone gets to sample some. If you aren’t getting laughs in weekly it will make things harder for you mentally than they might truly be.
If you are introverted and you feel smothered by your obligations, schedule alone time. I know, that sounds ridiculous. But try it.
Are you artistic and are lacking creative outlets? Get a cheap notebook at the dollar store and start writing your thoughts. Doodle in it. See where your mind might flow. Get some cheap water colors and play with the colors and paint. It is a huge de-stressor for me.
After taking time to honestly focus on you, this shouldn’t seem like “self-care,” but just the way you enjoy living your life. Soon, this should be something that you do without thinking about it. Make your happiness yours.