A topic that continues to come up in my graduate Psychology classes is the idea of self care.  As future mental health clinicians, it is important for my classmates and me to understand that in order to properly take care of others, we must take care of ourselves.  What I find the most appealing about self care is that it can be anything you want.  Some people’s idea of self care might be taking a hike to clear their head, or going for a drive with their favorite music on.  You can often find me at the Stanford Mall or taking the dogs for a walk. I believe that the idea of self care should apply to everyone.  Of course, when people are facing health challenges it is extremely important that they take the time to engage in activities that bring them joy.  However, the population that often gets less attention are the wonderful people who take care of us in our times of need.

When I was going through some of the roughest patches with my illness, my mother was always there when I needed her.  There was not one single instance that she left me in distress. Sometimes I woke up in the middle of the night screaming because I was so uncomfortable, dizzy, and shaking.  Within seconds my mom would be at my bedside, ready to bring me a cold seltzer, and soothe me through the fit of nausea. When I was in the hospital, she begged me to allow her to sleep on a chair, but I told her that I wanted her to go home and get her rest.  She did so, very reluctantly. Nonetheless, by 8:30am every morning I was awoken by the sound of her boots walking down the long hospital hallway, and greeted with my favorite iced green tea, and her much appreciated company. Needless to say, my mother was my pillar of strength when times were at their worst, and continues to be the one I always turn to.

Our caretakers expel much of their energy simply being there for us, and the reality is that they too are deeply affected by our illnesses, physically and emotionally.  It is so important for us to thank them for what they do, and to make sure that they too get time for the self-care they need. If you feel up to it, try to plan an activity for you and your caregiver to do together, so you can both relax and unwind.  And if something like that is not in the cards at the moment, there are a million other simple ways to show someone that you appreciate them. Caretakers are often very selfless people, and they may feel that taking some time for themselves is not necessary. But the reality is that regardless of having an illness or not, everyone needs to be taken care of every once in a while.

Nicole Gustafson
Nicole Gustafson received her bachelor's degree in Psychology from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY. She recently moved from Connecticut to Menlo Park, California and is attending graduate school at Santa Clara University. Nicole is studying Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Correctional Psychology.