If you are a caregiver for one or more other people (think: aging parent, sick spouse or sibling, and/or children), you know all too well how many hours out of your day you can spend making sure all their needs are met.
Whether you are providing daily personal care services in their home, making shopping trips to keep their pantry stocked and household running, and/or accompanying them on doctor visits, you are spending a lot of your time in places that keep you away from your world, and your life.
It gets to be such a habit that you may not even realize it. But there is an impact! Being somewhere other than where your normal social life would take you – especially if it is over a prolonged period of time – can become extremely isolating.
And maybe…just maybe…you might begin to feel more comfortable in that isolation than you feel taking the risks that come with having a bigger, more fulfilling life.
When you are so focused on your care giving tasks, it can sneak up on you over time.
You can become so numb to where you are, and who you are (and aren’t!) interacting with, that you no longer think about what you’re giving up that otherwise would bring you the joy, mental stimulation, social interaction and fulfillment that everyone needs and deserves.
That’s a problem!
Think about it: when you are primarily indoors or in a vehicle, and focused on someone else’s needs, you’re not attending events, social gatherings, educational presentations, or other entertainment.
Your needs are not even on the radar screen any more!
If you ever hear yourself saying, “If I weren’t stuck here at home, I would….” or “I would go [to the movie, or the dinner date, or the art gallery opening…etc.], except I need to do this for him/her…” that’s a clue that you are giving up some much-needed “you time” and could really benefit from a new strategy that honors your needs as well.
And if you required any further proof that your needs are legitimate, take note that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is proposing a tax credit for caregivers of up to $6,000 for family caregivers. Not to get political or take sides, but it is worth noting that people in policy-making circles recognize the great value of the service caregivers provide, and the financial as well as time impact it has on you.
So I encourage you to value yourself and what you provide at least that highly!
Remember this week, as often as you can, to Stop! Breathe! Focus! and give yourself a big dose of gratitude and a pat on the back for what you do and who you are for the recipients your care!
Then resolve to make more time for you and the things that light up your life. (And let me know how it’s going, and the challenges that are coming up for you!)
p.s. If you’re thinking you’d like some support in managing the stress and overwhelm of your caregiver role, be sure to call me at (201) 489-6720 to find out if my Take Back Your Life: The Art of Self-Care group is the solution. It’s starting Monday, February 1st!