Tools for Caring for Yourself

Taking care of yourself isn’t just about your own well-being, but about how that can translate into better care for your patient.  So it’s important you set time aside to relax, enjoy fun activities, connect with others or do whatever helps you feel like you’re maintaining our personal balance and recharging your emotional and physical batteries.

Some of the ways you can do that include:
 
Physical Activity
Many people feel more relaxed and refreshed after exercising. Physical activities such as walking, running, yoga, swimming and biking can help relieve physical, emotional and mental stress.

Expressive Activities
Expressing oneself creatively through art, music, gardening, sewing or other hobbies can be profoundly relaxing. If you or your patient is interested in learning more about art or music therapy, please contact the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center at 626-218-CARE (2273).

Journaling
Journaling has become a popular tool for coping with stress and inner conflict. Just writing out your thoughts and feelings can help you in venting and sorting out emotions and frustrations, identifying issues causing stress, and reaching insights that help solve issues and problems. Some good tips for effective journaling include:
  • Write the date on every entry.
  • Using complete sentences and worrying about grammar are not necessary.
  • Jot down your thoughts and feelings as they come to you. Write freely and openly.
  • When you reread entries (whether immediately or later) do not edit them. If you want to add notes or comments to prior entries, use another color ink or pencil so you can see how you have changed over time. Also add the date of your additions.
  • Make your entries as regularly as possible. Daily entries will enable you to track and process your experience more completely.
  • Journaling can be very important to you. Don’t feel pressured by others to let them read your journal unless you want to share it.
 
Art Therapy
"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life" - Pablo Picasso
 
Art therapy uses creative materials such as paints, chalk and markers as tools of self-expression. Making art is a process that can benefit both caregivers and patients alike, allowing them to deal with anxiety and depression and improving quality of life.

*Adapted from the American Art Therapy Association
 
Music Therapy
Music therapy can support the physical, emotional, social and spiritual welfare of individuals of all ages. It’s been shown to improve the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities or illnesses, as well as benefitting people who are healthy, like caregivers. Those benefits are why it’s been widely incorporated into healthcare support services.

Music therapy interventions can be specifically designed to promote wellness, manage stress, express emotions and improve communications.
 
*Adapted from Aldridge D. Music therapy in palliative care: New voices. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1999, and the American Music Therapy Association
 
Relaxation Techniques

The body’s instinctive reaction to stressful situations is to become tense, and relaxing that tension can go a long way toward alleviating the impact of stress on the body, even if you can’t avoid the situation.  

Listed below are a few relaxation techniques you can use nearly any time stress presents itself:

  • Deep breathing: Whenever you feel stressed, ask yourself, “What is my breathing doing? Where am I feeling tension in my body?” Close your eyes and turn your focus inward, and consciously take long, deep, slow breaths. As you inhale, visualize how each breath is filling you with calm; as you exhale, imagine and feel the stress leaving your body. Repeat for at least 10 breaths.
  • Deep Relaxation: Lie down on a comfortable surface and cover yourself with a light, natural fabric, such as a shawl. Put your arms down at your sides, palms relaxed and facing upward. Close your eyes. Let your legs relax and fall slightly outward; relax your lips, tongue, jaw and face muscles. Allow your body to feel as if it’s sinking toward the floor. Mentally scan your body, starting with your feet and moving upward. Focus on your breathing: on inhalation, visualize your breath bringing in light and energy. On exhalation, feel the tension leaving your body. If your mind begins to wander, bring your focus back to your breathing. Continue for at least five minutes.
  • Meditation:  One common belief is that you must not think during meditation, but thoughts will naturally occur while you meditate. You can train yourself to pick certain thoughts to pay attention to, while allowing the rest to just pass through. The elements of meditation include:
  • Posture: You should sit on a chair or the floor, keeping the spine straight.
  • Breath: Breathe deeply and consciously.
  • Mental focus: Focus on a spot, such as the tip of the nose or a point midway between the brows and middle of the forehead. Many meditations focus on a silent or chanted mantra.
Shakta Kaur Khalsa (2001), Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan, Unlock Your Inner Potential Through Life-Changing Exercise, Dorling Kindersley, London, New York, Munich, Melbourne, Delhi.
 
Self-care Maintenance Time
Caregivers need to make time to take care of themselves. Getting enough sleep allows you to meet each day with optimal energy and alertness. Caregivers should also eat balanced and healthy diets, maintain a network of friends, and be able to recognize when they need respite care.

What is Respite Care?
Respite care is a service where caregivers can find help in taking care of the patient. This service can be provided by another family member or by trained professionals. The goal of respite care is to provide short-term care for your loved one from a few hours to a few days, giving you some time away from caregiving.
 
Types of respite care:
  • In-home respite care is temporary care provided in the patient’s or caregiver’s home. This allows the family and patient to be comfortable and saves them from having to adjust to a new environment. Home-based respite care programs are usually provided through a nursing agency.
  • Out-of-home respite care programs provide the opportunity for the family or caregivers to leave the patient in the trust of a care facility such as nursing home, hospital or assisted living center.
For more information and/or assistance with respite care, please contact the patient’s assigned City of Hope case manager or clinical social worker.