Caregiver Self-Care on the Cheap for COVID and Beyond

by Apr 29, 2020Self-Care and Stress3 comments

Finally, ideas for practicing caregiver self-care on the cheap from a mom with practical and professional special needs qualifications.

Caregiver self-care on the cheap sounds too good to be true. But new guest blogger Jessica Temple says it’s possible. As a neuropsychologist and mom of two children with special needs, she knows what she’s talking about!


We parents hear time and again that if we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t take care of our children. It’s been said so many times because it is true!

Until recently, I thought self-care was too expensive, too exhausting, and too time consuming. Before children, I had hobbies and engaged in self-care every day. After children, that dropped drastically. Once my children were diagnosed with their special needs (autism and stroke), self-care dwindled to just about nothing. I could barely hold onto flossing, eating, and sleeping, let alone niceties such as massages and vacations. We don’t have much money, and I felt that time spent caring for myself was time stolen from my children.

A discussion with my husband opened my eyes to the fact that there are many free and quick ways to practice caregiver self-care on the cheap, even during the COVID-19 craziness. Here are some free and quick strategies we came up with.

Caregiver Self-Care on the Cheap at Home

There are many free things we can do, and we don’t even need to leave the house!

  • Soak in the bathtub
  • Listen to music
  • Safely sun bathing
  • Spend a night in with your partner or friends (once social-distancing is no longer a thing)
  • Card games or board games
  • Yoga
  • Arts and crafts with found objects
  • Read a book
  • Dance
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Listen to free audiobooks from the library
  • Listen to podcasts
  • Watch old home movies
  • Have a movie marathon
  • Write a letter to an old friend
  • Have a paper airplane contest
  • Design a fake house
  • Make a time capsule
  • Paint your nails
  • Drink more water 

Caregiver Self-Care on the Cheap Out of the House

There are other strategies that we can do when we go out once social distancing is no longer a thing. 

  • Take a drive in the car
  • Take a walk
  • Go to the library
  • Go to a free museum
  • Go on a picnic
  • Meditate outdoors
  • Window shop
  • Visit a farmer’s market
  • Start a found rock collection
  • Attend a free community class

Caregiver Self-Care Mindfulness Stratagies

Of course, if time is a factor, there are plenty of things you can that only take a little bit of time but pack a huge punch. 

  • Think about good past memories
  • Really taste your food 
  • Take mindful walks
  • Do the dishes mindfully
  • Wear comfortable clothes
  • Doodle, paint, or color
  • Give self-affirmations
  • Daydream
  • Write in your journal
  • Spend a few minutes outside
  • Take short breaks at work
  • Blow bubbles
  • Gaze at the stars
  • Stretch
  • Practice mindful breathing
  • Practice progressive muscle relaxation
  • Try out creative visualization

Caregiver Self-Care Fun

Having fun can’t be over-rated. Try these activites to lighten your mood.

  • Watch funny shows on YouTube
  • Having a fun text conversation with a friend
  • Sing
  • Cook or bake
  • Flip through a magazine
  • Take cool pictures on your phone
  • Put on creams and lotions
  • Give yourself a massage
  • Start a microgarden
  • Plan a (real or fake) future vacation
  • Read an interesting blog post

 On those hardest of days, when we are at are most exhausted, when we are completely broke, when we feel selfish taking care of ourselves, we no longer need to justify making time for ourselves. There are lots of quick ways to practice caregiver self-care on the cheap. Try one or two strategies a day and see what works for you. Any small steps you can take toward caring for yourself makes a world of difference. You are worth it!

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By Jessica Temple

Jessica Temple, PsyD, ABPP-CN, is a board-certified adult clinical neuropsychologist. She has two children who have special needs. She and her husband, Lewis, host a podcast called Thriving in The Midst of Chaos. On this show, they talk about all aspects of special need, including getting a diagnosis and treatment, self-care, relationships, transitioning to adulthood, school, and finances. They created the Thriving in The Midst of Chaos podcast to offer support to others in the special needs world as well as to provide an easy way to find the most useful resources. They aim to share helpful resources with others, advocate for improvement and change in the special needs world, and offer a different perspective on parenting in the special needs community.    To find out more about how Jessica’s work can help you, contact her at: or @midstofchaospod.


  1. Jessica Temple

    There are some activities that they may able to engage in with the child, depending on the diagnosis and age of the child, such as walks, cooking, draw or doodle with the kids, play with play doh or kinetic sand with them, stretch, any exercise that is possible, blowing bubbles, watching funny shows or movies, or singing.

    Otherwise, mindfulness is a great place to start. They can still be with the kids while they do these. They can focus on the texture and taste of their food when they eat, think about past happy memories, daydream while with the kids (as long as it is safe), mindful breathing, muscle relaxation, creative visualization, put on relaxing sounds in the background or in their room at night, or spray and smell yummy smells. Those are quick, easy, and doable, no matter the situation. I hope this helps!

  2. Jolene

    Hi Tricia, that is so hard. Maybe you could present the list as a starting point to the whole group. As a group you could brainstorm ways to tweak a few to make them work. Or suggest screen time activities to occupy kids for 5 minutes so moms can do something for themselves. Thank you for caring so much for the moms in your group! Jolene

  3. Tricia

    I enjoyed this article and the ideas. I want to share it with the moms in my special needs group but I know some of them can’t carve out the smallest part of time for self care. Some are single moms. Some have husbands who work out of town all week long. Some don’t have family to help and they don’t have a support system. Some would take a bath and emerge from the bathroom and find yogurt wiped on the walls. I want to offer hope to them and not ideas that are unattainable for them. Any thoughts?

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Meet Jolene

Jolene Philo is a published author, speaker, wife, and mother of a son with special needs.



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