notebook with "self care" written with candle and tea surrounding

The caregiving journey can be a rewarding experience; however, it can also come with emotional costs. According to AARP and National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC)’s Caregiving in the U.S. report (2020), 40% said caregiving increased their level of emotional stress, 28% said it impacted their physical feelings of stress, and nearly 1 in 4 caregivers (23%) report difficulty taking care of their own health (AARP and National Alliance for Caregiving, 2020).

Members of the Japanese American community can find prioritizing self-care especially challenging as they tend to value the needs of others over their own. Thus, caregivers may need to be reminded that it is not selfish to take time away from caregiving for self-care. This can come in the form of self-compassion, which involves acknowledging the challenges of caregiving, quieting their self-critical, inner voice, and allowing time to take care of oneself.

What is Self-Care?

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines self-care as engaging in activities that can improve one’s physical and mental health by helping to manage stress, lower risk of illness, and increase mental and physical energy (NIMH, 2024). Managing self-care early can help prevent caregiver burnout.

How to Practice Self-Care

Self-care can be practiced at any time and can involve different activities for each person. Here are some ways that caregivers can prioritize their health and take care of themselves physically, emotionally, and mentally:

Maintaining physical health

legs of two people walking

Exercise is proven to help with sleep, daily mood regulation, and quality of life (NIH, 2023). Nature based and outdoor activities also have significant benefits (NIH, 2021). Some more examples of maintaining physical health include:

  • Going for a short walk
  • Engaging in a mind body practice such as meditation, yoga, Tai chi, or breath exercises
  • Remote exercise
  • Nature-based reflective activities such as hiking or gardening
  • Maintaining a healthy diet 
  • Scheduling a doctor’s appointment to address physiological issues

Managing emotions

Caregiving can come with uncomfortable emotions such as shame, frustration, and guilt. Acknowledging, reflecting, and resolving these emotional issues, through the following strategies can help manage stress as part of practicing self-care: 

  • Identifying potential warning signs of these emotions. This can help to find strategies to address and redirect them constructively into reflective activities such as journaling or physical activities such as exercising.
  • Talking to someone about your caregiving experience. This can be another caregiver, trusted friend, or professionals. Counseling and mental health professionals can help with processing emotions, providing solutions, setting boundaries, and suggesting new self-care strategies.
circles with different emotional faces

Designating Specific Time for Self-Care.

Caregivers can find ways to set constructive goals or create self-care routines. Goal setting among caregivers has led to higher levels of wellbeing and lower levels of caregiver strain even if they do not complete all their goals (Journal of Gerontological Nursing, 2019).

  • Set specific, time bound goals for self-care. Caregivers can set and check in on their goals with a friend or another caregiver to provide accountability and prioritize creating self-care routines. 
  • Create space to relax. Caregivers may be living with their loved ones or they may be caregiving remotely. Creating a relaxing place physically or through visualization can allow caregivers to relax and find calm.

Identifying and Communicating Needs

two women talking

Caregiving alone can be challenging.  Caregiver expectations should reflect the limits they have. It may be initially difficult to acknowledge limitations; however, caregivers must be able to lean on their care support network for help when necessary as an act of self-care.

  • Identify needs and help resources. Identify specific areas where help is needed and who to ask for help in areas such as ADLs and IADLs or legal and financial advice.
  • Seek help and delegate care tasks. Respite care can be scheduled to offer a temporary break in caregiver duties for a few hours, a few days, or several weeks at a time at a health care facility, adult day services, or community meal or food programsLong-term care options including in-home care and assisted living facilities can also serve as useful resources. Telling your doctor that you are a caregiver can also help you receive specialized advice about what to expect in the future, support groups, and more effective health referrals for issues that the caregiver may be experiencing (NIA, 2021).

It is important to recognize the challenge of valuing and practicing self-care when caregiving. Practicing and prioritizing self-care can help to ensure that caregivers are taking time necessary to check in with themselves on their own wellness to provide quality care.

This fact sheet is for informational purposes and not a substitute for mental health advice.


AARP and National Alliance for Caregiving. (2020). Caregiving in the U.S. 2020. AARP.

Journal of Gerontological Nursing Strauss, S., Kitt-Lewis, E. A., & Amory, M. (2019). “I don’t feel like I have any control of my life at all . . . everything overwhelms me. everything”: Analyzing caregiver uncertainty and control through stance marking. Retrieved from 

National Institute on Aging. (2021). Retrieved from

National Institute of Health Mahindru, A., Patil, P., & Agrawal, V. (2023). Role of physical activity on mental health and well-being: A Review. Cureus.,and%20improved%20quality%20of%20life. 

National Institute of Health Coventry, P. A., Brown, J. E., Pervin, J., Brabyn, S., Pateman, R., Breedvelt, J., … White, P. L. (2021). Nature-based outdoor activities for mental and Physical Health: Systematic Review and meta-analysis. Retrieved from 
National Institute of Mental Health. (2024). Caring for your mental health.  Retrieved from,can%20have%20a%20big%20impact.

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). (2024). Caring for your mental health. Retrieved from