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Taking Care of Yourself as a Caregiver

Dear Elizabeth,
Iím a mother and a preschool teacher. I often feel exhausted and never seem to have time for myself. Do you have any ideas about how I can de-stress?
Mercedes Fineman
Los Angeles, CA
Elizabeth's Tips
Elizabeth Sanchez
Elizabeth Sanchez
  • Make sure to get enough sleep, exercise & eat a healthy diet
  • Create & maintain relationships outside of your responsibilities
  • Donít be afraid to ask for help
Expert Advice
Anita Britt, Ph.D.
Anita Britt, Ph.D.
Child psychologist
Youíre Not Alone
Probably the first step is knowing that you are not alone. Itís very common to feel stressed out and acknowledging that makes us feel less guilty and also more likely to do things to help ourselves. If we realize that what we do is stressful, tiring, and exhausting, then there are things that we can do to take care of ourselves.

Why You Need to Recharge
If youíre stressed out and tired and exhausted, you donít have 100% to give to the children. They pick up on the fact that youíre tired and youíre busy and youíre not able to focus, and thatís when theyíre most likely to give you a hard time and demand more and more of your attention, because they know what theyíre getting is not 100%. So for us to be able to give 100%, we have to refuel. We have to recharge. It makes you a better parent and better caregiver.

The Impact of Being a Caregiver
If you are constantly climbed on, spoken to, wanted, needed, pulled at, and after a while, it empties you. That makes it difficult sometimes to have anymore to give, especially if youíre dealing with multiple children, if youíre a caregiver in a childcare center dealing with multi-generations, or if you have more than one child. You want to give your very best to each individual, and sometimes itís difficult to do that, and we feel guilty about it.

The Importance of Saying ďNoĒ
Itís very difficult for caring people to say no to anyone about anything. We have to be very aware of what is stressing us, what is making us tired. Itís not necessarily the children or the adults even that weíre caring for. Weíre dealing with a lot of outside issues, too. Sometimes it can be very helpful to identify those thing and say, ďI can deal with this. I can do something about this. I canít about those other things, so Iím going to set them aside.Ē

Remember Your Own Health
Even if you canít imagine getting to the gym everyday, but you can go out and do hula hoops with the children, or dance with them. There are other ways that we can get exercise and take care of ourselves while weíre taking care of the children. Eat regularly. Most of us donít. But if you fix a healthy snack for the children, sit down and have some for yourself. Donít wait until youíre tired and exhausted and too hungry. If they take a nap, take a nap if you possibly can. It would seem like the least we can do is to be as good to ourselves as we are to the people and the children that we love.
Child Care Provider Comments
Ellen Chew
Ellen Chew
Mother of two
I try to care for myself by making time to go to yoga or to have breakfast by myself. Having positive fun social contact with other parents is a good way to feel that you are not alone. Play groups are good for children and are a good way to have contact with your peers.
Denise Henderson
Denise Henderson
Grandmother of two
I have a support group, Grandparents As Parents, which meets every Tuesday. I get resources and ideas from the other members get out some of my emotions. Itís a good place to vent. My husband is also good support. He will offer emotional support and will massage my feet and back. If I am stressed, he will take the kids outside for a walk, or to the grocery store.
Tom Bliss
Tom Bliss
Child care provider for 5 years
You get through challenging days by knowing your boundaries, asking for space and finding immediate tools that help you self-regulate. For me, water really calms me. To quickly calm down I'll wash my face or get a drink of water. If I need more time, I'll take 15 minutes and wash the dishes. For others cooking can be stressful, but for me, cooking calms me. It's important to know what works for you and go to it Ė often. I also involve myself in many activities, such as support groups, classes, seminars, and online study groups. I go to temple on Sundays. These activities enrich my experience and understanding, so that in those times when being a caregiver gets stressful, I have a greater reserve and depth of spirit from which to draw.

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