Caring for Yourself While Caring for Others

By Naomi Braun, MPH, MSW • Published 4/8/2024

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Hanway

Three generations of a family spending time together. Woman in perimenopause balances caring for young child and aging parents

Menopause can be a complicated time in life. You may be managing new and unexpected symptoms and taking care of your family and loved ones, building a career, and staying organized at home. As you well know, sometimes taking care of all these things can be very hard. And while you may automatically focus on others’ needs before you focus on yourself, we’re here to remind you that taking care of yourself is just as important as all your other responsibilities.

Keep in mind that everyone’s situation is different. You may be part of the “sandwich generation” where you’re caring for your children as well as your aging parents or other relatives. Or maybe you don’t have kids, but you are busy building a successful, meaningful career. Or maybe you’re the one who manages your household, making appointments, cooking, cleaning, and generally keeping things running. Or some combination of all of these. No matter your situation, it’s quite common to get caught in the middle of managing a lot of needs.

That’s why it’s so important to find ways to care for others while also taking care of yourself.

Woman experiencing perimenopause helping to care for her aging father

How to balance caring for others

Whether caring for small children, older relatives, working, or keeping your house running, it’s often hard to find time for yourself. Taking care of yourself and taking care of others at the same time is not always easy. Here are some ideas that might help:

  • Talk about what you’re going through. Talk to your family and loved ones about the menopause symptoms you’re having. They might not know or understand exactly what you’re going through. When they’re more aware, they may be able to provide you with some support.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help. Talk to your family about helping with chores or tasks around the house or related to your specific caregiving situation. Maybe even reach out to friends or people who do this for a living. This might be hard to hear, but you don’t need to try to do everything yourself. Taking on too much can sometimes add extra stress and perhaps make your menopause symptoms worse. Added stress might also hinder your ability to care for others.
  • Set limits. You have to set clear boundaries between when you’re taking care of others and when you’re focusing on yourself. Let those that you’re caring for know when you’re available to help and what your limits are. Setting up a caregiving calendar is one way to be clear about what you can do and when you can be available.
  • Take breaks. Even short breaks during the day can help you recharge. Use these moments to practice deep breathing exercises or do something that relaxes you. Spend a few minutes reminding yourself why taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of others.
  • Plan "me time". Schedule regular time for yourself, whether it's reading, taking a bubble bath, or doing a hobby you enjoy. Putting this time in your weekly calendar is a good way to help you make sure you do it. Schedule it like another appointment — it’s just an appointment with yourself.
  • Use technology. Technology can help you streamline your caregiving tasks. Using a shared calendar app to help keep track of events and appointments and communicate them with many other people. You can also search for other apps that help manage schedules, appointments, and medication reminders.
Menopausal woman caring for her family as she balances family and other responsibilities

How to nurture yourself

In addition to adopting these skills, it’s equally as important to focus on self-care during menopause. Taking care of yourself puts you on a path to help maintain your health and therefore, be able to effectively help and care for those you love. Here are some tips for taking care of yourself during menopause:

  • Try to get enough sleep. Let’s face it, sleep is important. But we also know that getting that good sleep is a real struggle for many menopausal people, due to a variety of factors including night sweats, anxiety, and more. Lack of quality sleep can lead to feeling tired and irritable, which isn’t helpful to you or those in your care. Try to create a sleep-friendly environment, go to bed at the same time every night, and develop a relaxing bedtime routine to help you sleep better.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Eating a variety of health, balanced meals and snacks can help give you the energy for all the activities you need to do and people you need to care for. Choose foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats that help keep your blood sugar balanced and your energy high. And instead of reaching for sugary snacks choose fresh fruit or dark chocolate if you need a sweet treat.
  • Stay active. Regular exercise may help manage mood swings, weight gain, and hot flashes. It can also help you feel healthy and strong so you can do the things you need to do for yourself and others. Find some activities you enjoy, like walking, yoga, or swimming, and incorporate them into your weekly routine. Even short, 10-minute bursts of movement can help.
Perimenopausal woman taking time to stay active so she can be healthy and strong and manage menopause symptoms

  • Do the things you love to do. What activities do you find fun, inspiring, or interesting? Make time for these activities on a regular basis, even if it’s just for a little while each day or every Saturday morning. Working these activities into your routine can help create a balance between your regular obligations and something fun.
  • Talk to someone. Menopause can be emotionally challenging, so don't hesitate to talk to your friends and family about what you’re going through. You could also join an online or in-person group of other people going through menopause. This can help you connect with other people who can understand what you’re going through. Feeling understood and that you’re not alone can help you bring your best self to the people that depend on you.
  • Manage stress. Menopause can be stressful, so it’s important to find ways to reduce stress. You could give stress-reduction techniques like meditation, deep breathing, or mindfulness a try. Finding the tools to better cope with stress (because it will happen whether we like it or not) can help you feel calmer and in control.

Throughout the menopause transition, remember that self-care is not a luxury. Making those small tweaks in your week to care for yourself can help you better care for others.

Last Updated 4/8/2024

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