If you’ve recently become a caregiver (perhaps unexpectedly!), and especially if it involves caring for a member of your family, I hope you found my last blog post helpful. In it I suggested the steps to take first to orient yourself in your new role so you won’t feel overwhelmed or blind-sided as you take on your new responsibilities.
You’ve assessed the situation and replaced initial assumptions with practical knowledge in terms of the time and effort that will be required to properly care for your family member. You’ve identified the types of self-care that you will need in order to minimize your stress and keep yourself healthy as you provide for whatever care is needed.
It’s now time to really focus and fill in the details. Time to put a structure in place that will ensure that you get your own needs met first. That may very well include an attitudinal shift toward giving yourself permission to ask for and receive those things, no ifs, ands or buts!
I highly recommend that you add to your morning schedule a daily recitation of the following five declarations. Commit to reminding yourself of these as you go through your day:
- I Remember At All Times That My Needs Count. I strive to be clear, to myself and others, about what my needs, feelings and capabilities are. This means I put guilt aside and let go of all judgments about those needs. I simply focus on the situation at hand and assess what is required in practical terms. I consider the consequences of possible decisions I could make and actions I could take, including those for myself, my family, my job, finances, etc. I make no judgments, but just allow myself to become aware of the true circumstances and my options for responding with respect to everyone’s needs including my own.
- I Ask For The Help And Support I Need And Deserve. I realize there are no “extra bonus points” I will earn by being a martyr. I realize that while In the short run all my new caregiver role may feel manageable, if the situation becomes a long term commitment additional resources must be brought into the mix. I do not have to do, and do not choose, to do this loving and exhausting work alone. I identify appropriate human and other support resources, and get agreements in advance that I can call on them when and as needed.
- I Set Boundaries That Are Respectful And Realistic. I acknowledge that I cannot – and should not! – attempt to do everything required just because someone expects me to. Health care professionals may assume that I am prepared to take on all my loved one’s care and responsibilities, or family members may ask me to do so. However, that doesn’t mean I have to say yes. I remind myself, when asked to take on more, to assess the potential for added stress and struggle in my life if I say “Yes” – then make the choice that’s right for me, arranging with someone else to handle that need if that is the appropriate solution.
- I Schedule Regular Stress-Relieving Breaks Throughout My Day. Whether I do a 20-minute meditation, have lunch with a friend, see a movie, watch some funny internet videos, take an hourly 2-minute meditation break using my “Simply Relax” audio (get a complimentary download by signing up for my newsletter list if you haven’t already), or practice some laughing yoga (really – you can even enjoy a free phone-based daily group session!*). I acknowledge that I need and I deserve these regular breaks, to replenish my energies and revitalize myself so I can face the ongoing responsibilities I have taken on.
- I Am Consistently Good To Myself. I realize that caring for my loved one involves many changes and adjustments. It’s imperative that I be patient, kind and compassionate to myself, at all times. It is not selfish of me to acknowledge that my caregiver role can be stressful and overwhelming. Reducing that stress means making sure I am taking good care of myself – physically, emotionally and every other way. When I feel I’ve made a mistake or fallen short, I forgive myself quickly. I pay attention to how I speak to myself, and make sure both my words and the underlying messages are kind, compassionate, and understanding.
It may take awhile for these commitments to become an automatic part of your day. Since most caregivers do not put themselves on their list of priorities for care, doing so takes Practice, Patience and Perseverance.
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If you notice that you aren’t being consistent with this self-care practice (or can’t even seem to make time to get started!), keep in mind that my Take Back Your Life: The Art Of Self Care group program is designed to help caregivers like you navigate this journey successfully.
Without adding a big time commitment to your already-busy schedule, it provides the support, guidance and encouragement to get you through___. Email me at Loren@LorenGelbergGoff.com, or call me at (201) 489-6720 to find out what could be possible for you by joining the next upcoming group.
* Check out http://www.laughteryogausa.com/home.html for telephone-based laughing yoga sessions!