Self Care for Caregivers: Maintenance v. Passion

I recently surveyed working daughters about what causes them stress and where they would like more support as a caregiver. The number one answer to the question, “With what would you like more help?” was “taking care of myself while caregiving.”


Self Care for Caregivers

Shot of a woman writing in a book at a table

Shot of a woman writing in a book at a table

Self care for caregivers isn’t something we can address in just one blog post so stay tuned — we will dedicate much more attention to this in the coming weeks, but right now, I want to share something with you that I recently talked about with a group of working daughters at a women’s advancement workshop and that will help you look at how you can make self care fit in your busy life.

I’ve written before about the importance of making time for what matters most in your life. One of the methods I use for doing that is by identifying and honoring my non-negotiable list. My non-negotiables are the things in my life that absolutely are not open to negotiation – my yesses. I got to my list by being crystal clear about what is most important to me at this phase in my life. Here’s what is NOT on my list: anything other people think I should be doing, shoulds (Read more about why Should is a bad word.), goals that don’t fit in my life at this time but that I plan to tackle later in life, housework, and trying to be anything that ends in “est” (I don’t need to be the richest, thinnest or smartest.)

Your non-negotiables may include spending time with your elderly parents and/or your children, prioritizing your health (hint, hint), focusing on your career, or serving a cause you care about. The list shouldn’t be too long – maybe three to five things that truly matter to you. To help you create that list, download the “Finding Balance” worksheet here.

This is the list to which you say, “Yes.” And when you do that, saying no to other requests becomes easier. For example, if daily exercise is on your non-negotiable list, the next time someone asks you to do something that interferes with your workout, say yes to your non-negotiable and your no becomes clear. If spending time with family on Sundays is on your non-negotiable list, say yes to that instead of saying no to a request to volunteer or from a neighbor for a favor or for the opportunity to work overtime for that that day. The more you say yes to what truly matters, the easier it is to find time for self care and anything else that’s on your list.

And here’s a key step in building that list – one I had overlooked until I met with those working daughters I mentioned at their company offsite – your list should be a mix of maintenance and passion.

Currently, the first two things on my list are adding value at work and exercising. These are maintenance items for me. I do them because they are key to my definition of having a good life. If I’m not adding value at work, I won’t earn a paycheck, and I won’t be able to pay the bills and support my family. If I don’t exercise, I can’t maintain my health – also necessary to support my family. The next two items are writing and spending time with my kids. These two things are on my list because I love doing them. These are my passion projects.

So, use the worksheet. Figure out what matters most to you. Then review that list and make sure you’ve got a balance of maintenance and passion items on it. A healthy life is built on blending what we need to do and what we love to do. As a caregiver, you run the risk of building a list of maintenance-only items. But for a healthy caregiver, one who takes care of herself, there have to be some passion items on that list too.

You Might Also Like:

Self Care for Family Caregivers: Selfless Not Selfish 

15 Reasons for Caregiver Guilt and the 1 Way to Overcome It

Want more help balancing care and career? We can help.


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