Creating Care for the Caregiver: Five Minutes at a Time

November 8, 2022

Global Genes asked several experts in the caregiving community who are caregivers themselves to share their thoughts during November, which is National Family Caregivers Month. Billie Short shares:
I once believed self-care must include a day at a spa or a weekend away. These are wonderful ways to refuel, but these activities are not accessible to every caregiver. While they will rejuvenate the soul and spirit for a short period, they have little impact on managing day-to-day stressors. Effective care for our emotional, physical, and mental well-being requires small, consistent actions that we repeat daily. 
Caregivers often say they do not have time to take care of themselves. I understand this obstacle. The job of caring for my daughter, Emily, is taxing and unpredictable. Emily has severe intellectual and developmental disabilities and relies on others to assist in all her needs 24/7. The intensity is often overwhelming, and the stress, unless managed, can be debilitating. The road to stress management was not paved in massages and weekend retreats. My life is not set up to be at the gym working out daily or meditating for hours, and the beautiful thing is I can improve my health without doing these things. 
I started to incorporate small and frequent daily habits that would help reduce stress, move my body more, and increase my feeling of joy. Each can be done in 5-minutes or less. The more I incorporate into my day, the better, but even if I do just one a day, I am winning. Short and frequent breaks can do wonders to calm the mind, body, and soul. 
Here are just a few of my favorite ways to refuel in 5-minutes or less: 
  • Enjoy a 5-minute meditation. Pause Breathe Reflect App has many under 5 minutes.
  • Take a quick walk around the block. 
  • Step outside and breathe in the fresh air and soak up the sun (or rain).
  • Have a dance party anywhere.
  • Make a playlist of your favorite songs and listen throughout the day.
  • Start your day with a brain dump — journaling, scribing, or even a to-do list. Writing helps our brain process problems.
  • Take a minute to do focused breathing. Try box breathing, or take 6 breaths to calm the circuits.
  • Do a 5-minute HIIT workout. YouTube has lots of short options.
  • Stretch. We forget how stiff we get just doing life.
  • Set a timer on your watch to remind you to stand or move each hour.
  • Take a power nap or visualize for a few minutes. Set a timer. Close your eyes. Rest.
  • Grab a healthy snack and eat it without doing anything else. Put the phone down.
  • Sit in silence.
  • Invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones. This has been life changing for me.
  • Read a chapter in a book or even a page. One page a day is 365/year.
  • Flip through a magazine.
  • Journal at the end of the day.
  • Begin developing the skill of practicing gratitude. Write down three things you are grateful for each day and WHY. The WHY helps you connect and creates a more meaningful practice. You can grow your practice over time.
This list is enough to get you started. Think of creative ways to add more activity to your daily routines. It takes my daughter about 30 minutes to eat her morning oatmeal and applesauce. I stand while I feed her. I pace and walk around the house. Over 30 minutes, I rack up anywhere from 250-1,000 steps. I do not have to take any time out of my day to do this. I am only switching up how I perform the task. I am not training for a marathon, but I am increasing the amount of time my body is in action each day.
Beginning to notice times in your day when you can incorporate a short break will get your brain looking for additional ways to quickly recharge and utilize your time more effectively. The most difficult challenge is overcoming the belief that a few minutes is not enough to do anything. That is not a true story because small steps matter. A 5-minute consistent practice adds up to 1,825 minutes per year. It is possible to improve your health, mentally and physically, 5 minutes at a time. How will you create care for yourself today?
Billie Short is a caregiver, life coach, and writer. She writes a weekly blog for her website: Conversation for Change. Billies topics include: caregiving, grief, marriage, mental illness, gratitude, and creating joy in the journey. One of her blogs was recently published in The Gratitude Journey by Chris Palmore.
Billie is the primary caregiver to her daughter who has severe disabilities. She lives in Southern California with her husband of 30 years and their two adult children.
IG: bgshort68
Meta/Facebook: Billie Short

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