As a care-giver for my own mother, as well as caring for a patient as an employee I know first hand the importance of caring for ME. Caring for others feels extremely rewarding and valuable. It can also feel frustrating and lonely. As baby-boomers age, the need for support will continue to increase. Financially, people who often need the most support can’t afford help. Government assistance continues to decrease when it’s needed the most, so where do you turn?
If you, or someone you know and care about is facing the responsibility of caring for others this information could make the difference between their burn-out or survival.
In my personal experience I have discovered taking time for myself is a top priority. I realize it can be hard to get help and it’s easier said than done to look after yourself first, but… stop and consider the fact that if you should burn-out, have an accident as the result of being over-tired or overwhelmed you’ll be needing care! Then what will happen?
The question then, is what can you do to give yourself the care you need so as not to burn-out? Here are some suggestions that have helped me:
- Keep a journal. Write down your feelings. What upsets you and how can you resolve the situation? Get the information from your head to the paper. This exercise can allow you to visually see just what’s going on and open the opportunity to brainstorm solutions. Writing can be a tremendous release. When you’re writing down your thoughts don’t pre-judge or consider what you’re writing, just allow the thoughts to run out of the pen. Once you’ve written all you can to let go of what’s been accumulating in your head you can choose whether or not to take it further. You may want to: 1. analyze what you’ve written 2. brainstorm solutions 3. crinkle up the paper and burn it, or throw it away 4. just save it as reference for another time or 5. ask for help.
- Appreciate. This was a particularly difficult process for me. When I initially felt angry, victimized or just plain wanted to blame someone for the circumstances I felt I got myself into. Once I surrendered to the process and began creating a gratitude journal I began to feel better. Instead of just journaling what comes to mind, as in #1, journal what you feel grateful for. If any negative thoughts surface push them aside and tell yourself you’ll ‘deal’ with those thoughts later. Instead just focus on what you do have that you are appreciative for. It could be the opportunity to be of service. If you’re caring for a loved one it could be the chance to give back. Maybe it’s appreciating your own health and ability that you are able to care for this person. Continue to relax into the process until you’ve exhausted all thoughts in this moment and add to your gratitude journal as you think of other things to be grateful for. Come back and read over your journal when you’re feeling angry or upset.
- Meditation. For many people who have pre-conceived ideas of what meditating is and aren’t familiar with this practice allow yourself to let go of your beliefs. Meditation is simply the art of accepting and allowing your mind to let go of all thoughts. You can find many meditation video’s on Youtube that may help, or you can simply take a few deep breaths, relax, let go and feel into a peaceful, relaxing moment. Focus on your breathing in and out and allow all tension you’re holding to dissipate. The more you practice the easier it becomes to get into a meditative state.
- Find something you enjoy to look forward to. Don’t stop living your joy by becoming a care-giver. You can’t be what you need to be, helping someone else unless you’re true to yourself. Pamper yourself! Don’t make excuses, instead find alternatives for what may not be ideal but can feel fun. Ask for help. There are people willing to help when you ask, but until you ask they may feel intrusive or they simply aren’t aware of how to help.
- Clear the clutter. Sometimes getting down to basics by eliminating clutter can make all the difference in the world. Anything you don’t need, haven’t used in a long time or that’s out-dated get rid of. The less there is the easier it is to focus on what is. There is definitely something to be said for simplicity. As you go into a cupboard to find something, take things out that have expired dates, or are never used. How much do you hold onto that you don’t even know what to use it for? Medications have expiration dates and need disposing. Be aware of toxic chemicals and inter-actions of disposing certain liquids. Ask your pharmacist how or what to get rid of. Get rid of old can goods, foods that you no longer eat or food in the freezer that is freezer burnt. Often just the process of clearing the clutter will clear the mind. Like Spring cleaning you feel better once it’s done. If you don’t have the energy to do this, again ask for help. It’s better to spend a little on eliminating what could be harmful if kept.
- Change of scenery. Getting outdoors, or changing things around can give you a fresh perspective. Nature is a wonderful way to heal the soul. Whether you love animals, trees, flowers, water, sunshine, if you can’t get away bring more of what you love in. Sounds of nature or relaxing music can soothe the soul. What have you loved to do in the past? How can you spark that joy and bring it into your home?
- Talk it out. Find people that you resonate with who will bring a ray of sunshine into your heart. Focus on topics of inspiration rather than complaining about the tasks at hand. The more you think about what you don’t have or how difficult things are the less you feel motivated. Instead, concentrate on pleasure, listen to people who inspire you and appreciate simple moments of happiness.
- Plan ahead. What can you do to alleviate your responsibilities so you have more happiness in your daily life? What can you do today to prepare for the future? Choose one task at a time and make necessary changes to get results that are better. One step at a time, recognizing your progress and appreciating the success you make will keep you focused and seeing positive results.
If you have other steps that have proven helpful be sure to add them by leaving a comment. If you would like support and someone to listen check out my coaching programs. You matter and as a care-giver your physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health is a priority. Do what’s necessary to care for YOU, too!