A guide to family self-care


The cost of caring

Dealing with mental health issues and substance abuse is taxing for a family – parent, spouse, friend or child, the toll of addiction knows no bounds. Emotional and physical exhaustion, high stress, and lack of sleep are just a few of the symptoms of being an involved caregiver. That’s why self-care is essential.

We give this advice to our clients all the time – treating addiction doesn’t come from just abstinence, it comes from efforts to improve all domains of life. The moments taken in a day to improve mental wellbeing are essential to the recovery process.

Since addiction touches entire families, self-care should be a priority for all involved; don’t overlook the importance of personal health.

Ultimately, good self-care makes a better caregiver. It can be an overwhelming concept, shifting the focus inward, when caring for another has been the main focus. It’s especially difficult for parents who are conditioned to protect their children; promoting self-care can bring rise to feelings of guilt.

But if you don’t practice self-care as a caregiver, it’s hard to provide compassionate care for a loved one. While professional help is important, there are plenty of ways to practice at home.

Keep a gratitude journal

Write down a few things each day that you are grateful for – it will improve positive thinking, quality of life, and help change and maintain new perspectives.

To make it routine, keep a journal beside your bed and jot down what happened throughout the day, especially things that emoted gratitude. Doing this at night can be relaxing, as you reflect on the depth of a crisp, fall day or a praise at the office.

Practice mindfulness

It may seem counterintuitive, but there are applications for phones, tablets, and computers that guide meditations and mindfulness exercises. You can take a look at some of the top-rated apps here, or do a bit of searching on your own.

We teach our families (and clients, too!) techniques to be mindful in our psychoeducation groups and coaching sessions. Sitting quietly for a few minutes and concentrating on each sense can be helpful to keep your mind present.

Try this: when you notice yourself starting to feel stressed or overwhelmed, find a place (such as outside on your porch, in a quiet room, or even in the car) and think of five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can smell, two things you can touch and one thing you can taste (time to grab a small chocolate treat!).

Commit to the basics

There's a saying, "move a muscle, change a thought." Even completing the simplest tasks alters mood and inspires productivity. Showering, proper hygiene, some simple chores, hydration, and some form of movement or exercise are reliable ways to develop healthy routines. These basics can lead to a healthier, happier, and more rested you.

Build resources

Self-care is beneficial for everyone. Your own self-care will not only promote personal wellness, it will also serve as a guide for the loved one that you are helping. Search for advice and resources that will help develop habits that work best for you, giving you health and sharing it in turn. The one you care for will draw strength from your example.

To learn about the services that Project Courage offers to families, click here.

By: KC Hespeler