If you’re caregiver at your job, chances are good that you’re a caregiver in your life outside of work too. You’re the person that people run to when they need something. You’re the rock of the family. You’re the first one to volunteer. You rarely say “No.”
This caregiving way is natural to you and beautiful. But it has another side.
My friend Linda is one of these caregivers. She would work all day as a 9-1-1 operator, and then go home and clock-in to her other job: taking care of the home, her three boys and her husband. Dinner needed prep, chores had to get done, and she liked the work done in a certain way.
Until she got sick. For two weeks, she could barely get out of bed, having run herself into the ground while caring for everyone. Except herself.
During these two weeks, something amazing happened. She asked for help. She delegated tasks around the house. She let go of control. She enlisted her able-bodied boys (and her man) like an ROTC recruiter. Stuff got done! The house didn’t fall apart, and Linda got well.
But that’s not all. After going back to work, the team kept at it. Linda no longer felt the need to do everything, and she began practicing regular self-care.
Instead of waiting for a breakdown or illness to take you out, here’s five steps you can take for some much needed downtime, right now, without guilt, and without waiting until tomorrow.
- Check in with yourself. The first step is to notice if you’re feeling rushed, tense or anxious. Just bringing awareness to your breath and the position of your body can offer a break in the stream of forward-pushing thoughts.
- Stop what you’re doing. If you caught yourself with a crick in your neck while doing five different things, just stop. Put everything down, just for a few minutes, and sit in a comfortable chair.
- Sit upright. An upright posture actually allows for a greater level of relaxation, with the skeleton providing support so the muscles can relax. Place your hands palms down on your lap, feel your feet on the ground, and the support of the chair beneath you.
- Breathe. Take three deep breaths into the lower belly. Imagine a space just below the navel, toward the back of the body, and draw the breath into this space. You’ll know you’re doing it right when just your abdomen is moving. If your upper chest and shoulders move as you breathe, continue to consciously work with drawing the breath into the lower belly.
- Repeat frequently. Each time you bring awareness to the body and breathe into the lower belly, you turn on the relaxation response, drop your stress level, and allow for more space to maneuver in your day.
Self-care is the only way we can continue to give to the world. We must give from the overflow. But this “always-on” mode can take its toll. With practice, you can slow down when you want to and take it easy, just in time for the weekend.
What would you do if you had more time for yourself this weekend? How would you spend a day, just having fun? Comment below to share your self-care ideas.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Adam Timm is the author of the #1 bestselling book, Stress Is Optional! How to Kick the Habit, and the cofounder of The Healthy Dispatcher, a law enforcement training company that offers stress resilience, communication and leadership classes designed for Emergency Dispatchers. His second book, Dispatcher Stress: 50 Lessons on Beating the Burnout, is due out this summer.