As care partners, our lives may sometimes feel like they are not our own. The physical and mental load of caring for a loved one can be challenging, and it is easy to overlook our own needs. We must be mindful of this, and not allow it to happen. So take a minute to find your center, take a slow deep breath in and out, and then come take a walk with me on beautiful Cape Cod.
Care partners, I want to encourage you to find time to nurture your own personal physical and mental needs. Even if it’s just for 15-30 minutes a day.
Being a care partner is an incredibly rewarding experience but it is not always easy, and forgetting about our own needs, aside from being a care partner, is all too often common.
According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, in the United States alone, there are over over 53 million unpaid care partners, and 23% of these Americans say caregiving has made their health worse.
On top of being a care partner for my guy with Parkinson’s, I am also a Registered Nurse and Lifestyle Medicine Practitioner, so these statistics are hard for me to read. Especially knowing there are many things we as care partners can do to maintain, and even improve, our health.
Care Partners: Self-Care Without Being Selfish
When working with clients I find one of the first hurdles to help them overcome is changing their beliefs about self-care. Helping them understand, and believe, that self-care is not selfish.
For many of us, we have been conditioned to believe that taking even just a little bit of time out for ourselves is self indulgent or selfish.
Some care partners may feel they are not worthy unless they are helping and taking care of others. Caring partnering in this way could eventually feel like a sense of martyrdom, and this is no way to live your life or care for your loved ones.
As care partners, making it a priority to take care of our own health and wellness is not only important, it is smart.
When you are healthy, the responsibilities you have as a care partner can feel less daunting. And with less stress, more energy, focus, clarity, and strength, you might even end up ditching some of your own prescription medications and medical bills!
Self-care is a trendy topic these days, and for some it can morph into an ‘all about me’ type of attitude, a reason to neglect others. This however is more than likely not the case for care partners, who are already thinking and caring for others.
Self-care versus self-denial
Self-care versus self-denial. This is the choice many care partners are confronted with on a daily basis. It is not always easy, and of course each day is different, however I would like to encourage you to aim at choosing self-care over self-denial at least a few times every single day.
One great self-care activity for care partners is walking. Walking is probably one of the safest and healthiest activities out there, and more and more research is being done every single day.
Walking is an excellent whole body, healthy activity. Not only is walking great for you physically but it also helps with our mental health.
Physical health benefits of walking
Here are a few physical health benefits of walking.
- Weight management – walking helps to maintain a healthy body weight, and reduces body fat.
- Heart health – walking helps to improve cardiovascular health, thus helping us better manage conditions such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
- Strength – walking strengthens muscles and bones, which in turn improves muscle endurance, and helps to prevent and manage conditions like osteopenia and osteoporosis.
- Balance – walking helps to improve balance and coordination.
- Immunity – walking helps to improve the immune system.
Mental health benefits of walking
Here are a few mental health benefits of walking.
- Energy – walking helps to increase our overall energy levels.
- Mood – walking improves and balances our moods.
- Cognition – walking improves our cognition, focus, and clarity.
- Sleep – walking improves memory and sleep.
- Stress – walking helps to reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and tension.
To offer you some encouragement and inspiration, here is a video I made while walking Flax Pond, one of the many lakes and ponds on Cape Cod, not to mention the beautiful ocean surrounding us! Sit back and enjoy its beauty, and then find your own beautiful walking path.
VIDEO: Care Partners – come walk with me on beautiful Cape Cod
Also, take a look at this post and video of the amazing herring run here on Cape Cod.
Things to keep in mind when walking
Clearly walking is beneficial for us as care partners, both for our physical and mental health. That said, there are a few things I’ve learned along the way in preparation for a walking routine.
First, if you have not exercised in a long time, or you have any health issues, it is always best to talk to your doctor beforehand, to get their okay and any recommended guidelines.
It is important to make sure you have proper fitting walking shoes for the terrain you will be walking on. I cannot stress this enough. For a time, I was walking in old running shoes, and my feet started to ache and hurt. I ordered myself a new pair of shoes and my foot issues immediately went away. So don’t ignore the quality of your shoes, it does make a difference.
If you feel you will be walking outside in the sun and heat for any length of time, don’t forget your hat, sunglasses, and sunblock. And mosquito/tick repellent if you feel you will be walking in a high risk area.
Finally, do not forget a water bottle – always. If you are only going a short distance leave it in a place that is handy for you to grab when you get back (like your car). If you will be walking for a longer distance, then definitely bring your water bottle with you. Dehydration can happen quickly if you are not being careful.
care partners – check out these other posts for more ideas on how to best take care of your health while caring for others
FREE Wellness Guide
Here is a FREE Wellness Guide for you, with ideas on things you can do every single day to take care of yourself, while also taking care of your loved ones.
Let’s be social
I hope you enjoyed this article and found it helpful. If you did, please let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.
You can also follow me, and my life on Cape Cod, on my Instagram page @dawndunkin