Should family caregivers make time for hobbies? YES! Yes! A thousand times YES! Because hobbies help caregivers.

Now that we’re a couple of weeks into this New Year, are you oh! sooooo tired of being told that you must have goals, and resolutions, and do all the things other people say we should be doing on social media, morning shows, and the like. All the while you’re just wondering how to get through today, let alone all of 2024? 

I get it…

  • Word of the year 
  • Lose weight 
  • Walk 10,000 steps a day 
  • Declutter your house  
  • Live mindfully 
  • Give up sugar, carbs, meat, drinking…. 
  • Write a book 
  • Finish reading all the books you’ve started 
  • And my new favorite for caregivers–drum roll, please…Take up a hobby

Well, since January is National Hobby Month, let’s consider just this one thing and put the rest on hold for a minute. Only because I can tell you from personal experience that hobbies help caregivers. And since caregivers need all the help we can get, there’s no time like the present to explore what interests you for a change. Or, if you’re not reading this in January, March, June, or July will do, too. Am I right!?

Hobbies help caregivers maintain a sense of self

According to an article on, hobbies are one of the first things to go, “when life gets crazy.” Crazy as in the unanticipated caregiving-chaos-days (CCD’s), messing with your life! Things like an unplanned trip to the doctor, hours in the ER, an ambulance ride, or an overnight stay in the hospital. Not the kind of traveling you had in mind? Me neither!

Unplanned events like these happen to caregivers and their loved ones all the time. After a while, we tend to expect them and therefore, start putting away hobbies and leisure activities thinking they are no longer viable or important in the overall scheme of our caregiving lives. I used to think, “Why bother getting started with what I’ll never have time to finish anyway.” Sound familiar?

Please, don’t be too quick to disregard the value of having a hobby. Chose to make time. Investing in yourself through hobbies helps you maintain a sense of self. And that’s something caregivers tend to lose over time.

Hobbies help caregivers with self-care

Believe it or not, hobbies help caregivers cope with the stresses of a caregiving life. Did you know that hobbies relieve stress, stimulate our minds, maintain social ties, build up our bodies, maintain brain health, and mental health, and provide a form of respite (some may say “escape”) from the overwhelm of family caregiving?

Since we, as caregivers, already know that CCD’s will happen, it becomes all that more important to maintain your hobbies. Don’t lose yourself waiting for the next CCD. A hobby can be like an anchor back to yourself, like a comforting blanket waiting for you on the back of your favorite chair. We need to find ways to maintain a sense of self despite our sometimes chaotic circumstances.

The article says that social is better than solo when it comes to hobbies. So, if you are socially inclined or want to be, think book club, team sports, taking an in-person class, walking, or working out with a friend.  Having a buddy provides accountability that helps us hold on to an activity (and a piece of ourselves) until the chaos wanes and life returns to normal (whatever that is for you). 

I know what you’re thinking, hobbies take time. Yes, they do and you are worth that time. Think of hobbies as a form of self-care. No matter what else is happening around us, we must make time for self-care. That includes spiritual self-care (Click here for more on spiritual self-care) If you don’t take care of yourself, sooner or later, you won’t be taking care of anyone else either. I’ll repeat myself here–choose to make time.

Hobbies help caregivers feel better

We don’t have to do all the things social media throws at us. But finding a hobby seems worth at least a little investigating. In the article, How to Find Your New Favorite Hobby, Kate Hanselman (a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner) says “Challenging, fun, and engaging hobbies have the power to make us happier and healthier,” Go to the article for more insight.

To find a hobby that leads to a happier healthier you, start by:

  • Thinking back to what you enjoyed doing as a child/young adult
  • Talking to friends about their hobbies
  • Watching a few YouTube videos
  • Taking a class
  • Taking out a library book on hobbies
  • Purchasing the minimum of supplies, then
  • Giving it a TRY 

Whatever your hobby efforts produce, they likely won’t be perfect. That’s okay because perfection is not the point. It’s about how it makes you feel, so don’t rush the process.

Coloring Hobby

Fun with coloring

“Hobbies live in the pleasure world, not necessarily the mastery world,…We’re not trying to impress the board, we’re not going for a paycheck, there’s no ulterior motive. Hobbies are like dessert—and as a baker myself, dessert is the most important part.” –Kate Hanselman

Please, don’t be disappointed if your first foray into hobbyland isn’t fruitful. You may find that crochet doesn’t feel like dessert to you. Okay, so try coloring, watercolor, learning about plants, cooking, baking, hiking, writing, or whatever until it feels like you’re sitting in your favorite chair, wrapped in that comfy blanket, with a fork and your favorite dessert minus the guilt. 

“Give yourself permission to do something that you like,”–Matthew J. Zawadzki

A note about guilt

Guilt is a waste of your precious energy, caregiving friend. Kick that joy-steeler to the curb. According to Matthew J. Zawadzki, an associate professor of health psychology at the University of California, “…when people feel guilty about spending time on leisure activities, they experience increased symptoms of depression and anxiety.“ (

Hobbies help you find your way back to you

As family caregivers, it feels like we put so much of our lives on hold that we sometimes forget who we are as individuals. However, mindfully focusing on just one stitch, brush stroke, or word at a time, for example, can help us reclaim our identities, rekindle our passions, and further develop our interests outside of caregiving.

Even with caregiving as the overarching theme of our daily activities, we can choose to leave a bit of time open for things that aren’t related to caregiving. I have to say full-time caregiving without hobbies would have been a much harder road for me. Looking back, I don’t know how I fit my hobbies in, but I’m glad I did.

You don’t have to give up everything to care for your loved one. You’re still in there, caregiving friend. Choose to make time for what is important to you, whether it’s reading, writing, painting, or tennis. Doing something for you, because you truly enjoy it, will make you a better caregiver, bring you joy, and help you stay connected to yourself and others even in the toughest of caregiving seasons.

My hobby story

Crochet hobbe

Granny Squares

While a 24/7 caregiver to my sister, I crocheted blankets for five of my grandchildren, took up watercolor painting, continued to blog, started a newsletter (find past newsletters here & subscribe to get yours below), and wrote on Instagram. Oh! With the help of a friend, I also created a four-episode podcast capsule about being a family caregiver (you can find it here). Hobbies helped me manage all the feelings many caregivers experience, and judging from the output, I had A LOT of feelings to manage. Anybody else!

Yes, I had to make time for my hobbies. As it turns out, we find time to do what is important to us. Make it important.

But, not all hobbies click, though. It’s okay to let those go. Take podcasting, for example, that came and went for me. While I  enjoyed the research, recording, and working with a friend, I didn’t enjoy it enough to pursue or make a financial investment. But, on the other hand, crocheting has been with me since middle school, when my Aunt Rita taught me a few basic stitches.

Last year, I took two watercolor painting classes and I’m about to start a third. This is a hobby I’ll stick with because it makes me feel connected to my creative side, beginner supplies are inexpensive, I’ve met new people in my classes and online, and I like learning how to get better by using various techniques. Watercolor painting brings me that eating-dessert-in-my-favorite-chair feeling. (Click here for more about tapping into your creative side.)

I’ve learned that all of my caregiving emotions aren’t going away, but they can become easier to manage when I engage in enjoyable hobbies. As a stress reliever, hobbies help caregivers regain a sense of calm despite their circumstances.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Hobbies don’t replace time with God in prayer. He is our best stress reliever.

Hobby ideas

Think about what interests you. Maybe it’s something you used to do before caregiving and you’ve already given up. 

You might enjoy physical activity like frisbee golf, running, walking, or swimming. Creating something with cooking, baking, or arts & crafts makes you smile. Or perhaps you are more introspective and writing is something you should explore.Whatever it is, choose to make time for it.

Hands-on making things

Watercolor hobby

Supplies don’t have to be expensive to enjoy.

Arts & Crafts – This one is about planning what to make, gathering the materials, maybe watching a how-to video, and using your hands to create something. Again, you could give your creations as gifts or even try selling your work at local craft shows. 

Crocheting or Knitting – This is creative and comforting, using your hands to create something, and you can give away your creations as gifts. There a plenty of YouTube videos to help you learn how. I’ve used them to learn new stitches myself.

Watercolor – Watch YouTube videos for beginners, play with colors and techniques. Here’s something I always wanted to try but never did until I was in the most stressful phase of caring for my sister. I’m not sure why I chose then to try watercolor, but painting got me through some very emotionally hard times. 

More hobbies

Not drawn to artsy hobbies? That’s okay, there are plenty of other ways to destress, learn more, and manage the pressures of caregiving just waiting to be discovered. Try these:

Writing – You don’t have to have an MFA to write creatively. You can do it by posting on social media, in writing groups, or in a personal journal (great for processing the sometimes difficult journey of the caregiving life).

Indoor gardening

Enjoy caring for your indoor garden.

Reading – Find your favorite genre and read to your heart’s content. Try Scify, historical romance, poetry, self-help, or biographies. All are available at your local library, used book store, and online. Caregivers have time to read even if it’s only a paragraph, page, or chapter at a time.

Singing – Join your church choir or a community choir. Take voice lessons.

Gardening – Create a Zen garden or simply capture that Zen feeling one gets from planning, planting, cultivating a garden, and watching it grow. And don’t forget indoor gardening. Not everyone has a backyard to plant things in, so don’t let that stop you from learning about plants and how to keep them indoors.

Fishing, hiking, gardening, yoga, or any other physical activity – These are all good for the body and the brain. 

What hobbies are all about

Hobbies are about what interests you and how the activity makes you feel. That’s it. The benefits, however, are wide-ranging from physical health, mental health, brain health, positive social interaction, and more. Reaping those benefits depends on you. So, I hope you can see your way clear to investing time to find a hobby (or two) that makes you feel like you’re eating dessert when you’re doing it. 

Do you already have your hobby? Please share in the comments.