How to make time for yourself as a full-time carer

If you want to make more time for yourself as a full-time carer, this guide is for you.

Prioritising ‘me time’ while caring for a loved one can be challenging, although we know it’s essential for your wellbeing and theirs. The on-call nature of the job and the persistent thought: “What if something goes wrong?” can discourage us from taking a break.

So, here are practical tips to sneak in self-care moments without compromising the quality of care you provide.

Know what you need and want

An arm resting on a table, writing notes on a piece of paper on a table, a notebook and a coffee mug are also on the table

Because caring can be around the clock , you must be strategic in making time for yourself. 

Start by listing what you need and want. Putting your self-care routines in writing can help clear your mind. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re juggling numerous thoughts. 

What activities replenish your energy and wellbeing? Is it a walk in nature, a yoga session, losing yourself in a good book, or chatting with a friend? Whatever it is, write it down.

Then, group activities into categories:

  • Non-negotiables: These are the essential self-care rituals you wouldn’t dare miss.
  • Flexi-fillers: These sources of joy don’t take much time and can fit into your day’s flow, like having a quick chat with a friend or journaling
  • Micro-moments: These are micro-doses of self-care you can do throughout the day. It could be as simple as stepping outside for some fresh air.

Assess your daily routine

A holds a monthly planner in one hand, and is writing in it with the other hand

The next step is to sketch your typical day. Start with waking up and note down everything you do until bedtime. Include:

  • Activities: Meals, caregiving tasks, errands, and others.
  • Duration: How long each activity takes.
  • Energy levels: High, medium, low (mark periods where you feel drained or overwhelmed).

Where do your energy levels typically dip? Are mornings a frantic rush? Do afternoons get bogged down with caregiving needs? Do you have little moments of downtime between tasks? 

Highlight the times you feel most overwhelmed. These are the peak traffic zones where self-care might seem impossible. Conversely, mark out your calmer stretches. These are your potential ‘me time’ moments.

Build time into your routine

Two middle aged adults stand doing stretches in their living room

Inserting self-care activities into your daily schedule in one go can be overwhelming. So start small and have micro-breaks. Perhaps instead of doing an entire yoga session, you should do a few stretching or breathing exercises first.

Once you feel comfortable making time for yourself, schedule longer blocks for the entire session.

Don’t get discouraged if your schedule shifts. Be open to adjusting your “me time” plans and finding new opportunities for self-care.

Finally, work hard to make time for yourself. Some days, you may feel like you have no opportunity for self-care, so it’s important to find an opportunity when you can.

Optimise your time

A young woman is wearing earbuds, while she carries a pile of folded towels and walks up stairs

Where possible, multitask–listen to an audiobook while doing chores, practise gentle stretches while waiting for laundry, or do mindful breathing while your loved one is busy with something else.

Also, prepare for ‘me-time’ activities in advance in case you have unexpected free moments. For instance, keep a journal or book handy, bookmark an article to read later or download an audiobook as you start your day.

Remember to look for ways to find joy in everyday tasks. You can practice mindfulness, for example, while performing easy activities–engage your senses and notice textures, smells, and colours around you.

Ask for external support

A woman is holding a mobile phone in her hands in front of her

Seeking help allows you to prioritise your wellbeing without sacrificing what you do. You can delegate tasks to another family member, whether running errands, helping with meals, or providing companionship for your loved one.

If you have no relatives available, look for third-party services that offer support for people with disability.

Lastly, connect with other carers to share experiences, exchange tips, and find encouragement.

Visit Mambourin’s Carers Corner

Carers Corner is a space where we share useful resources and offers, list social events for carers in the West, and invite you to share your thoughts and questions.

Other areas of interest

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