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Remember when you or a loved one was pregnant and your due date was approaching? If you were like me, you wondered where you would be when the contractions started or your water broke. Would you be alone or would someone be with you?

These were questions with answers outside of our control. The only thing we could control was being prepared to go into labor. We had our hospital bag packed and with us at all times. It was comforting to know our bag was there.

Similarly, as family caregivers, we’re on call 365 days a year. We don’t have answers to what the next high alert need will be or when it will happen. We just have to be ready for anything, at any time.

Preparing Yourself for a Caregiving Crisis

Even though we may not be able to control the ‘what’ and ‘when’, we can control how we prepare for a caregiving crisis. One way is by having an ‘in-case-of-an-emergency’ bag prepared for your loved one and yourself.

Self-care isn’t only about a weekend getaway or a night out with friends. Self-care is about discovering ways to take care of your mind, body and spirit - every day. As busy family caregivers, we must find ways to integrate self-care while caring for others or we risk experiencing caregiver burnout. A self-care tote is a fun way to help us seize potential nuggets of ‘me time’ in our day so that we’re better prepared for what life throws our way.

When we’re care partnering with our family members during a crisis or just in day-to-day life, there is often downtime while our loved ones are sleeping, undergoing medical tests, at therapy appointments, or simply in the bathroom.

The goal of your self-care tote bag is to contain those items you either wished you had with you during those unexpected moments of down-time or simply items you know will recharge you in a crisis.

A Self-Care Tote Bag Checklist

First, grab a tote or reusable grocery bag. Now comes the fun part…packing your self-care tote bag with supplies to reenergize your mind, body and spirit.

Self-care Supplies for Your Mind

  • Puzzle books and pencils
  • Paperbacks or magazines to read
  • Hobby supplies such as, adult coloring books & pencils or a knitting project

Self-care Supplies for Your Body

  • Healthy snacks, such as a protein bars or raw nuts
  • Scented body lotion or spray
  • Lip balm
  • Manicure kit including polish remover, nail file and nail polish
  • Herbal tea bags
  • Disposable facial wipes
  • Fuzzy socks or a cozy blanket

Self-care Supplies for Your Spirit

  • Extra phone charger and headphones so you have immediate access to your favorite self-care apps, such as:
  • Calm app for meditation and sleep
  • Bible app
  • Spotify app to listen to a happy and healthy playlist while taking a walk or to drown out annoying background noise
  • Uplifting or calming essential oils to dab and breathe in, such as lavender or peppermint
  • Prayer or favorite quote journal

Here’s some good news! Once you have your self-care bag packed and with you at all times, you can now seize a self-care surprise opportunity even when a crisis isn’t occurring. We can uncover unexpected pockets of time while waiting for our own appointments or arriving early to a destination.

Now, with your self-care tote bag, you are ready to seize those unexpected self-care opportunities. Enjoy! 

Elizabeth Miller is a family caregiver and a Certified Caregiving Consultant (CCC). Her personal experiences caring for aging parents with chronic and terminal illnesses as well as caring for a sibling with developmental disabilities (while working full-time and raising teenagers) inspired her to create Happy Healthy Caregiver. Elizabeth is a national speaker, workshop leader, and global advocate for family caregivers. Through her consulting services and free resources, Elizabeth helps family caregivers integrate caregiving with their busy lives. She also leads the Atlanta Daughterhood Circle a social support group for family caregivers.