How to Take Care of Yourself This Summer as a Caregiver or Program Staffer
We are officially deep into the heat of summer! The chaotic schedule of summer camps and programming that keep kids busy all season long is also keeping you moving at a rapid-fire pace. As you take care of all those kiddos, who is taking care of you?
Self-care is more than just a buzzword. It’s super important to your productivity and wellbeing, regardless of the season. So, when schedules start filling up and your stress levels are on the rise, here’s how to keep yourself at peace.
It’s Okay to Say No
You’re participating in summer programming for a reason. You said “yes” to making fun accessible for kids with disabilities. You said “yes” to dedicating your summer time to keeping kids engaged. But it’s also okay to say “no” sometimes.
Disability inclusion is all about breaking down barriers and making “yes” more accessible, and that affirmative mindset often influences our personal lives. Many of us are guilty of spreading ourselves too thin or over-committing our time to make programming the best it can be. From late nights of brainstorming engaging activities to weekends spent preparing for the week ahead, it’s easy to give too much of yourself and your time away.
Setting boundaries is important year-round, and those boundaries should be honored in the summer too. Show up for your shift and go the extra mile while you’re there; everyone will be grateful for your contributions. But also set aside time that is completely separate from your summer camp or caregiving responsibilities.
“When you say yes to things, it should be out of joy, not because there’s fear or an obligation. At the end of the day, what’s most important is that you are always saying yes to you. Keeping this mental health checklist in mind can help with that.”
– Arena Ellis, Why Saying ‘No’ Benefits Your Mental Health
Keep It Simple:
One way to make this easier is to plan outings or activities for yourself that create a physical and mental barrier to your work. If you’re at brunch with friends, you can talk about work, but you won’t be immersed in activity ideas for your campers. When you do want to spend some after-hours time on your programming, set a timer and try to keep it minimal – you deserve a break!
Savor All Your Me-Time
You need a bit of time to yourself throughout the summer. Dedicating your days to inclusive programming is awesome, but it can be physically, mentally, and emotionally draining at times. You’ll only be at your best if you take time to recharge.
We know that setting aside time to recuperate is easier said than done. It has its perks, though! Your mind works better when it gets breaks instead of go-go-going all the time. Ultimately, taking time for personal development or just mindless fun will improve the work you do and the programming you provide, so it’s worth the few minutes of downtime.
“People that look after themselves do have better cognitive ability. They do have better focus and they do have better concentration. They tend to actually produce more.”
– Dr. Russell Thackeray, a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in productivity, as reported by Trello.
Keep It Simple:
Sometimes we overlook the best opportunities for self-care. Consider your commute: Alone in the car, it’s a great time to take in a podcast you’ve been looking forward to or put on an album you love. Prefer some peace and quiet before the laughter and loudness of your day begin? Keep your car quiet on the way to work! It’s a great time to create a therapeutic experience for yourself, without cutting into another part of your time.
Keep Your Energy Up
We’ve all been there: You’ve run out of snoozes on your alarm, there’s no amount of coffee that can keep your eyes open, and even the simplest tasks feel like moving mountains. Summer can wear you down! Making sure you have enough energy to get through your day happily is easier on some days than it is on others. But your energy is going to have an immediate impact on how your programming goes, so it’s important to take it seriously.
Sleep is a good place to start. According to the Philips annual global sleep survey conducted in 2020, 61% of adults around the world believe that their memory is worse when they have not slept well, while 75% admit they are less productive after a poor night’s sleep. If you want to be your best for the kids you care for, catch some quality Zzzs first.
Keep It Simple:
Our advice? Figure out a sleep schedule and find joy in your routine. Your summer schedule may not match your school-year schedule. Earlier wake-up times, different meal times, or maybe later nights… can all confuse your body. Try to stick to a routine so you can adjust to the summer, the same way you’ve adjusted to the rest of the year. Consistently going to bed and waking up at the same times will make both parts of your day easier. And a well-rested you is a better you!
You have a jam-packed activity schedule ahead of you. Amidst the excitement, staying hydrated – or even thinking about hydration – can be a struggle for some of us. Dehydration is a huge concern, though, especially in the summer. Try to keep drinks close by, and hydration top of mind!
Resist the urge to down whole pots of coffee or cans of energy drinks too. While they may help keep you awake, they can work against you. Caffeinated drinks can rev up your central nervous system, leave you feeling warmer than usual, and even trigger hot flashes. Who needs help feeling hot in the summer?! Staying cool and quenched should be your #1 priority.
Good old-fashioned H2O or electrolyte drinks are the best way to go. Keep an eye on your intake and your body will thank you!
Keep It Simple:
Staying hydrated is a must, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. It’s totally fine to reach for flavored water or sparkling water if they make it easier for you to get excited about your water intake. An insulated water bottle can help keep your drinks cold and refreshing as well.
Soak Up the Summer Fun
Don’t let the summer slip by without reflecting on how awesome it is. Summer camps and programs are for making lifelong memories, and you’re not excluded from that. All those activities you’re planning can offer some fun for you, too!
Let yourself live in the moment. Savor the sensory elements of your summer experiences. Get involved in activities, let loose, and allow yourself to create meaningful connections this season. Even the most stressful summers are worth it, so take it all in.
And don’t forget to reflect! Looking back on each day can ground your experience and remind you why you signed up as a staffer or facilitator in the first place.
Keep It Simple:
Consider keeping a journal throughout the summer. It will give you a dedicated place to reflect on your favorite parts of each week. It can become a useful guide for you with pages including:
- A gratitude diary
- A self-care habit tracker
- Or even an idea repository you can reference for program ideas next summer.
Not one for journaling? No problem! Some quiet time to be introspective is enough.
Reach Out to Your Colleagues
Other caregivers understand you in ways nobody else can. You share the experience of hosting summer programs, planning all the time, and constantly looking forward to what’s next. So, connect with each other!
Your colleagues are likely to experience the same stress and burnout. They relate to the demands of your work, and can offer advice that’s relevant to your shared lifestyle.
Keep It Simple:
Don’t wait for other people to reach out to you. Many of us do this, which leads to nobody staying in contact with each other outside of work! Take the initiative to speak to someone you trust and you’ll both be happy it happened. Want to talk to people outside your own program? Join groups for caregivers on social media or in your community. They’ll have a fresh perspective to provide!
Caring for Caregivers Since Day 1
Self-care is going to look different for every person, every day. What works for you is what matters most. Just remember to make yourself a priority sometimes, as tricky as that may seem.
And you can take it from us because we’ve been there too.
KIT is comprised of caregivers, facilitators, and educators who understand what you’re going through. You take pride in your work, and you want to do your absolute best for the kids in your care. We’re here to help make that possible by taking care of you!
Find out about our latest disability inclusion courses, as well as more tips and talking points created with caregivers like you in mind. Sign up for our newsletter so we can stay connected and continue supporting each other!
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