When your spouse, loved one, or friend has been incarcerated, it is so important to be there for them and provide them with support during their sentence. In other articles we have explored ways to stay in touch with your inmate and discussed ideas for helping your relationship thrive during the incarceration period.
Just as important, however, is to find a way to stay strong yourself – to help you as you support your inmate and continue to deal with the everyday stresses life can bring. In many ways, the spouse or family of someone who is incarcerated must serve a sentence of their own, living their lives in the absence of the inmate. Finding ways to support yourself mentally and emotionally is even more important during these difficult times.
No Time for Yourself?
Often, the families or loved ones of those who are incarcerated feel that they have no time for themselves. In many cases they have taken a large financial hit because of the loss of the inmate’s income and have the additional burden of keeping funds in the inmate’s commissary account. This could lead to the necessity of an extra job, leaving even less time and energy for finding support and self-care. This is one way that PrisonConnect’s low monthly rate can be extremely helpful!
There are also many responsibilities that may be added as a result of the inmate’s time away, creating even more stress for, and draining more personal time from, their loved ones. We have put together a few ideas to help provide some self-support for those who are helping incarcerated loved ones – most of which require only a small investment of time and energy.
Ways to Support Yourself!
It is common for loved ones of inmates to feel overwhelmed and burned out, being left with little to no energy to do things for themselves. However, there are many activities that can provide an important respite of “me time” in less than 10 minutes a day!
- Keep a Journal – Many find that it is helpful to keep a journal to record thoughts and feelings during the period of separation from their incarcerated loved one. It can help to relieve stress by getting things out of their minds and putting them on paper instead. Setting aside just 10 minutes during the day – even just before bed – can be relaxing and healthy. It can also be a way to release tension without creating negativity for the inmate.
- Exercise/Stretch/Yoga – Science has shown that spending just a few minutes each day doing some form of exercise reduces stress and helps to create a mentally and physically healthier you. This can be done by taking a quick jog around the block, spending a few minutes in the garden, dancing to your favorite music, hopping on a bike for a short ride, or even taking a few minutes to stretch or do yoga. What appeals to you the most?
- Read – Pick up a new book! These days, even if you don’t have time to go to the bookstore or library, you can easily read a book on your phone or other device. What are you interested in? Fiction or non-fiction? Science fiction or romance? Whatever appeals most to you, spend a few minutes reading out it each night before sleeping. It will help you to relax and give your mind a mini-vacation.
- Herb Garden – Do you have a green thumb, so to speak? Even for those without the time for a full-on outside garden, an herb garden or windowsill garden is a perfect solution. Tending to the plants can be relaxing and uplifting, and can be done at any time of day for just a few minutes, yielding positive results.
- Online Support – There are so many support groups online these days, many specifically for the spouses, family members and loved ones of those who are incarcerated. All it takes is a quick internet search to locate several groups with similar situations, many of which are categorized by location. Reach out and find others who can relate to you and your inmate’s situation!
- Meditation/Prayer – For those who are spiritual, setting aside a few minutes each day to pray or meditate can reduce anxiety and stress, and provide a positive, uplifting and empowered feeling. It can help to emphasize the feeling that the family member or loved one is not alone, even though it may sometimes feel they are.
You Can Do It!
It is so important to stay connected with and be there for your inmate and provide them with support during their incarceration. Just don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed and forget to take care of yourself. It is so important to find a way to keep up your strength to help you be strong for your incarcerated loved one. We hope this article will give you some helpful ideas on how you can find time for yourself, even when you think you don’t have any!