A new year can provide a special opportunity to reevaluate one’s life and make some new choices.
Are you devoting so much time or energy to caregiving that your health, happiness, or well-being are suffering in small or large ways? If so, maybe this is a time to change that and give a gift to yourself that can not only help revitalize you but also help you become a healthier, happier caregiver who can be there for your loved one over the long haul.
Remember American culture has instilled in many of us the belief that we have to do things alone, pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, and suffer in silence. However, these types of choices are not sustainable for the typical six or seven years of caregiving. Without finding support, caregivers frequently develop both mental and physical health issues, which damage not only themselves but also their loved ones.
This year, experiment with different ways of doing things. Some new choices might feel a bit scary or uncomfortable at first, but these same choices can be essential to personal happiness, health and long-term caregiving.
Make 2019 the year that you embrace a new way to healthier, happier caregiving. Put yourself front and center to make sure you are taking care of not just your loved one, but yourself.
Here are some ideas for loving resolutions to help you make essential changes:
1) Appreciate Yourself
Each day that you take time on caregiving tasks, you are doing something incredibly special. You are providing loving care to someone who needs you desperately. This is valuable, essential work, so resolve to take a moment each day to take in just how wonderful you are.
2) Make “Me-time” a Priority
Each day, resolve to take some time for yourself. Consider what brings you joy and work it into your day or week. Maybe you would like time to read or watch a favored television show. Maybe you need to go outside and feel the sun or take a walk. Maybe you need to vent to a friend in person or by phone. No matter what you need or desire, make it a priority. Even if you dream of a few days away, work on finding a way to achieve that. You are important, and remind yourself that your needs also must be treated with importance.
3) Just Breathe
If stress is taking its toll, take the time to just breathe. Pause, breathe in deeply for ten seconds, hold that breath for ten seconds, and let it out slowly for ten seconds. Repeat until you feel better. Make the decision to do this whenever stress is rising in you and notice the calming effect. When you take time to focus on your breath, your heart rate lowers and the negative effects of stress can dissipate a bit. You may also be able to think more clearly as you handle life’s inevitable stresses.
4) Choose Help
The biggest challenge many caregivers face is simply making the decision to accept others’ help, and yet this is the most essential aspect of transforming a caregiver’s life to a happier, healthier one. So resolve to respond to a friend or family member who has offered to help. Just say ‘yes,’ no matter how hard that may seem at first. See what happens if you say ‘yes.” Does life get a wee bit easier? Can you say ‘yes’ again and again? Make this the year of ‘yes.” By the way, saying “yes” makes those who asked feel better too.
5) Try Something New
Take a moment to assess what isn’t working in your caregiving life and try something new—maybe even something that feels awkward like visiting a new support group or sharing your challenging feelings with a therapist. Give yourself permission to experiment with new methods that may turn out to work better for you.
No matter what choices you make in the coming year, always remember, you are precious and special. Thanks for all that you do! Happy New Year! —Kathi Koll