Effective Self-Care

By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Describe 4 types of self-care activities that support balance and reduce stress.
  • Identify specific self-care activities that you can focus on to improve your own well-being.
  • Use a planning tool to help prioritize self-care activities in your schedule.
Woman sitting down writing in journal

If you are caring for an aging loved one, it is critical for you to take time to care for yourself too. Healthcare professionals and community agencies agree that self-care makes family caregivers stronger and more resilient. Some caregivers feel uncertain or guilty about taking time for themselves at first. If you feel that way, try to remember that self-care will help you manage stress, reduce burnout, and ultimately provide better care for your loved one.

Self-care is more complex than simply taking a break. Self-care means that you are doing activities that help support your well-being. To decide what kind of activity will best support your well-being, you need to consider the different types of self-care.

These include:

  1. Physical Self-Care
  2. Mental and Emotional Self-Care
  3. Social and Relationship Self-Care
  4. Spiritual Self-Care

Take a minute to consider: Which type of self-care do you think you are already doing well in? Is there a type that you think you need to focus on improving?

Building a Self-Care Plan

Everyone’s self-care plan is unique. However, sometimes caregivers will focus their energy on just one type of self-care. It is important to support each of the areas to reach feelings of balance and wellness. If you only focus on physical health, then your social, emotional, and spiritual health may suffer.

Here is a list of activities for each type of self-care. Check off any activities you already do in each category. Circle or star any activities you think you could benefit from doing more of.

  • Eat nourishing foods
  • Eat regularly
  • Participate in physical activity
  • Get enough sleep
  • Rest when you are sick
  • Take care of personal hygiene
  • Go on a walk or play a sport
  • Go to medical appointments
  • Follow medical recommendations

  • Set aside time for thought and reflection
  • Recognize things that give meaning to your life
  • Live according to your values
  • Participate in a cause that is meaningful to you
  • Spend time in nature
  • Meditate
  • Pray

  • Spend time with friends and people you like
  • Call or write to friends and family far away
  • Meet new people
  • Have stimulating and meaningful conversations
  • Spend romantic time with your partner
  • Keep in touch with old friends
  • Ask others for help when needed
  • Do enjoyable activities with other people
  • Share a fear, hope, or secret with someone you trust

  • Reflect on your own strengths and achievements
  • Take time off from responsibilities
  • Participate in hobbies
  • Turn off distractions like text messages and emails
  • Find reasons to laugh
  • Express your feelings in a healthy way like talking, creating art, or writing
  • Take time to notice your inner thoughts and feelings
  • Write in a journal
  • Identify comforting activities like taking a bath or re-watching an old movie
  • Read a book
  • Learn something new

Fun and Achievement

When deciding on your self-care activities, consider if the activity will bring you a sense of enjoyment or fun, or of accomplishment and achievement. Both types of activities are important and will generate positive feelings. Try to include both types of activities in your self-care plan.

Getting Started on Your Self-Care Plan

Getting started can be the most difficult part of any activity. You may feel like you don’t have enough energy to do your self-care activity – but most people report they feel like they have more energy once the activity is complete. For example, taking a walk around the block may seem daunting, but once you return home you may find you have a clear mind and feel more positive. One of the best ways to support your self-care activities is to write down a specific plan for self care. You are more likely to add self-care activities to your day if you make a plan.

Pick one activity from the list above that you would like to try to do more often. Try answering the questions below to make your own self-care plan. If you are comfortable, share your plan in the comments below this lesson! You can also share what area of self-care you think you need to prioritize at this time.

My Self-Care Plan

Example: Spend time reading a book for enjoyment

Example: Mental and Emotional self-care

Example: At home, after dinner Monday – Friday

Example: 15-20 minutes each night

Example: Tonight

Example: I can tell my wife about my plan and progress

Make Self-Care a Priority

How can you find time for self-care in an already busy schedule? For self-care to be effective, it needs to be a priority. This means you might have to say “no” to other requests or responsibilities. Self-care is a good enough reason to say “no”. Remember that your needs are just as important as anyone else’s. It can be challenging to say “no”, but it is a skill you can practice just like any other caregiving skill.


A. Self-care is a caregiving responsibility.
B. Self-care works well for some people.
C. Self-care reduces stress and burnout.
D. Self-care should not be a priority.

Answer: C

A. Eating regularly.
B. Meditating.
C. Following medical recommendations.
D. Calling a friend on the phone.

Answer: A & C

A. Remind her that it is a responsibility.
B. Remind her how much better she will feel immediately after doing the activity.
C. Remind her she needs to bring her children on the walk.
D. Tell her that she doesn’t need to go on a walk.

Answer: B

Additional Resources

  • Man and woman walking together

    20+ Ideas for Managing Caregiver Stress

  • Man reading newspaper

    4 Skills for Documents & Decision Making

  • Two woman sitting outside having a conversation

    Caring For Your Mental Health While Caring For Someone Else’s

  • Two elderly men talking

    Dementia Caregiver Checklist