Self-Care Strategies for Military Caregivers
Submitted by Cohen Veterans Network
There are an estimated 5.5 million military caregivers in the United States. Of these, 1.1 million are caring for post-9/11 veterans. Military caregivers are family members, friends or acquaintances that provide care and assistance to wounded, injured or ill veterans and service members. This daily endeavor can take a toll on caregivers when it comes to their mental and physical wellbeing.
Month of the Military Caregiver presents the perfect opportunity to encourage military caregivers to carve out time for themselves in support of their own mental health and wellness as they care for others. Self-care can include any activity or practice both big and small that have a positive impact on your mental health and well-being. While time and resources may be limited, there are self-care strategies anyone can practice on a regular basis:
- Say “No” As a Form of Self-Care
There are times when you might be asked to do more than you can realistically give. If someone asks something of you, use a “tactical pause” to gather your thoughts and consider if it is doable. If it is not, practice self-care by saying “no.” You don’t need to apologize for it, “no” is a complete sentence.
- Stressed Out? Take Action
If there is a clear, actionable thing that’s stressing you out, the best self-care you could possibly give yourself is to act. If the task is just too overwhelming to tackle all at once, then break it down into smaller, more manageable chunks. In other words, you don’t need to climb the entire mountain in one day. Simply walk 10 ft. today, and then another 10 ft. again tomorrow. This approach can make projects less intimidating and more doable.
- Ask for or Accept Help
If someone says, “Let me know if you need anything” take them up on their offer! It’s ok to let others help you carry the weight of what you’re experiencing. If you’re uncomfortable with receiving help, think about what you need in terms of your friends. If your friend asked you for help with the same thing, would you help them? If the answer is “yes”, then let your friend be a friend and help. Or, if it’s an acquaintance that’s offering assistance, think of it as an opportunity for connection. They help you, then you help them all the while you’re building friendship and community.
- Practice Grace with Yourself
Give yourself some credit! We often feel that we could have or should have done more. But instead of focusing on the things you didn’t get done in a day, focus on the things you did get done. Extend yourself the same kindness you offer others. Practicing grace with yourself first is important. It additionally makes it easier for others to mirror that behavior back at you.
How do you practice self-care? Use #SelfieforSelfCare on social media to share your ideas.
Cohen Veterans Network (CVN) is a 501(c)(3) national nonprofit, clinically integrated mental health system for post-9/11 veterans and military families. CVN focuses on improving mental health outcomes, operating a network of outpatient mental health clinics for veterans and military families in high-need communities, in which trained clinicians deliver holistic, evidence-based care to treat mental health conditions. Learn more about CVN by visiting www.cohenveteransnetwork.org