"You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give." ~Kahlil Gibran
Caregiver's Self-Care Comfort Kit
Caregivers are, by their very definition giving people. They do give of themselves, sometimes for many years, faithfully supporting their care-receiver. It turns out that most caregiving roles are more a marathon than a short sprint, so one has to be prepared with the strength and stamina to continue. Quite often caregivers find themselves battling their own chronic stress, burnout, depression, health problems, relationship challenges, and other negatives to quality of life. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance to find ways to reduce the stress, relax, disengage for a time of respite and renewal. I've spoken of this many times in the past year, even giving recommendations to create a Caregiver Comfort Drawer for those emergencies when you need a little extra TLC.
However, in the previous posts, I didn't include a photo of the kinds of things I was recommending, and a photo is, as the saying goes, worth a thousand words. So, today, I am giving you a glimpse into my own self-care comfort kit, a photo tour, and a list of the types of things I included that worked for me. I realized, especially toward the end of my mother's life, that this comfort kit needed to be mobile, rather than in a drawer at home. That way, my visits to Mom could include pampering for us both.
I hope you will find the suggestions helpful and that some of them will resonate with you. Please do find something to help you deal with the stress levels. It is not being self-indulgent to do so -- it may save your sanity, and perhaps even your very life!
Here is a list of items my comfort kit contains, by category:
Oil Lady Aromatherapy Good Medicine Tin, which includes 5 essential oils, pure organic jojoba to blend them, a lavender mist bottle, and instructions on how to use them in various ways, such as in a diffuser, in the shower/bath, in self-massage, hand massage, etc. These are simply wonderful in all kinds of situations, to calm & balance oneself and reduce stress. I give them my highest recommendation. They also sell a Sweet Sleep Kit with the lavender mist, and lavender oil, along with natural tranquilizer oil, which is great for those nights when sleep eludes you or your care-receiver. I also have a diffuser in my kit. Mine uses tea light candles, so must be attended at all times, but there are electric ones as well which can be set to low temperatures.
In addition to the above, I also included Stimulator Oil and Balancer Oil blends from Oil Lady. I love them for myself and my Mom. Aura Cacia makes two great body creams that have become favorites -- Lavender and Patchouli/Orange are now my standards for moisturizing and make a pleasant bedtime ritual. And, I use some of their bath products when I want a special, relaxing treat. For more aromatherapy suggestions, visit my page: Aromatherapy
Books & Music:
For relaxation, I use a guided meditation called Gateway to Peace by Max Highstein. It is soothing music and words which takes you on a 12 minute journey of renewal. Great stress reducer!
I also use Jon Kabat-Zinn's CD, Mindfulness for Beginners to learn mindfulness meditation. And, as a companion to that, the book Everything is Your Teacher, based on Kabat-Zinn's book, Full Catastrophe Living, offers great insights. I love Wayne Dyer's book Being in Balance which is quite helpful, and can be read in small increments if time is in short supply.
There are many other books and recordings, and I find it most functional to put the music and meditations on an iPod for easy use and storage of a bunch of favorites. I bought an iHome speaker dock for it, which is rechargeable and has its own case for easy portability. That way, others, such as your care-receiver, can listen to, if you wish. I cannot emphasize to you enough the amazing power that music has to affect your mood and sense of well-being. It is a wonderful tool, for both you and your loved one, so please do make use of it in the ways you find most healing and helpful.
A small journal/Gratitude journal
Stationary and envelopes
Colored pens, pencils, sketch pad
Healthy snacks and not-so-healthy emergency chocolate (dark, of course, so I don't feel quite so guilty)
You can get very creative with your comfort kit -- after all it is for YOU, so whatever speaks to your heart and soothes your soul is perfectly valid. I also advise using humor wherever possible and in whatever form you can find. It really will help keep life on the lighter side to have some laughter)
I haven't spoken here much about the use of scent, specifically essential oils, also known as the practice of aromatherapy. This is a very ancient art, used by the Egyptians, in Biblical times and by many others through the ages. It's power derives from the fact the when you smell a scent, it connects directly to the limbic part of your brain stem -- the most ancient part of the brain geared toward survival. Your nose/brain connection is immediate and very strong. That's why the scent of a rose, or certain perfume or food that you associate with a person or feeling, is triggered so amazingly whenever your nose picks up that scent, taking you back to a memory associated with the particular scent.
In terms of a stress relief device, the use of essential oils can shift our mood with just such power and certainty, when we understand how to tap into it. The scent of lavender is one of the most calming and balancing of all the oils, and for that reason, you see it (or smell it) in many products for inducing relaxation and sleep -- like bath oils, bath salts, pillows, etc. The important thing when using essential oils is that they must be purely derived and of high quality -- meaning, the distilling process and the original herbs or flower source must be pure.
There are a variety of ways to use essential oils and I highly recommend trying them out. You can diffuse the scent into the room, create a "blend" using the essential oil and a carrier oil, such as jojoba or sweet almond oil, or you can put a drop on a cotton ball or handkerchief -- they can also be used in massage. If you are interested in learning more about essential oils, I recommend the website www.oilladyaromatherapy.com, since its owners represent a wealth of experience and integrity with teaching about and using this precious gift of nature.
I found aromatherapy to be a wonderful addition to my repertoire of caregiver tools -- for my own care and for my mother -- I had a custom blended oil created for her, which I used regularly. She found it very comforting and even the process of putting the oil on her skin was soothing and nurturing-- to us both! This is a transformative and very effective therapy for dealing with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, or for cancer patients and their caregivers, for children with autism, and many, many other uses. And, of course, for self care for the caregiver! Check my resource page for further information, links, and books about the subject.
Karen is a compassionate, enthusiastic student of life, who cared for her mother for 17 years. She brings her insights, compassion, experience and desire to share knowledge and healing to this ongoing conversation with others on the caregiving path. If you are caring for a parent, spouse, friend or other loved one this site offers sanity-saving tips, open-hearted self-care ideas, and an open forum for discussion, connection and sharing resources for the journey.
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