I'm a caregiver to my spouse, but that doesn't define me. I'm a certified personal trainer, but I don't spend every waking moment in the gym. I eat as clean as possible, but I confess that sometimes I indulge in ice cream or chocolate. I try to get enough sleep, but sometimes I stay up past my bedtime. I have learned how to find balance where there used to be extremes. I have learned how to better cope with the challenges that we as caregivers navigate daily. I have learned how to take care of myself. I have learned moderation and a healthy balance!
As caregivers, we take on so many different roles that it's easy to lose sight of taking care of ourselves. What constitutes balance for one person may look completely different to another. It depends on how much care you provide to your loved one. It depends on whether or not you have children. It depends on whether you work outside the home or maybe do volunteer work. There are many factors that contribute to what your typical day looks like and how much time you can devote to yourself. Many times you may be so exhausted that you gravitate towards things that actually drain you more. Maybe you don't think that you deserve a break and so you keep on going. Regardless, at some point in your day, you need to take five or ten minutes to stop and focus on self care. Let me make one thing very clear before I continue....taking care of yourself DOES NOT make you selfish. It allows you to keep going for the long haul.
I know how hard it is to make time for self care, but it is crucial to do just that. I used to be an "all or nothing" type of person. I didn't see the point of doing something in moderation, but that type of thinking isn't always productive and often trying to be everything to everybody can lead to overload. We can do anything full blast for a short time, but eventually we may crash if we don't tune in to our needs. I know this from personal experience. I had a full-blown breakdown one year after my husband was paralyzed and I ended up hospitalized. Obviously, being in the hospital didn't allow me to be a caregiver and my husband had to fend for himself. For that entire first year, I tried to keep everything like it was before his injury, as if nothing had changed. I was in complete denial that something needed to give and for me that was letting go of control and perfection. I also didn't take time to decompress, because I felt guilty if I did. However, after two years of counseling, I learned that it's okay to not do everything perfectly all the time. I still struggle with that concept from time to time, but I understand now that moderation doesn't equal failure.
I want you to stop and think about something that you enjoyed as a youngster. Maybe it was drawing in a coloring book, riding a bike, roller skating, gardening, reading, or whatever it was that allowed you to be completely immersed in the activity and lose track of time.When was the last time you went for a short walk to clear your mind? When was the last time you lit a candle and took a bath? When was the last time you allowed yourself to stop what you were doing and call that friend that you lost touch with? How about taking thirty seconds to hug your husband and/or children instead of rushing by them in a hurry. When was the last time that you just closed your eyes and simply focused on being in the moment? Think of how relaxed those things would make you feel. I can hear your response and you're saying, "I don't have time!" My reply is, "You have to make time" and that requires self discipline.
How do you make time for yourself each day when you feel like everyone is relying on you to do everything? First, stop and take a look at where you spend your time. Is there something that you can delegate? I understand that delegating means that it won't get done to your standards, but that really isn't such a terrible thing if it allows you to take ten minutes for yourself. Second, think about how much time you spend on social media, or playing Candy Crush or whatever online game you play. Third, look at how much time you spend mindlessly sitting in front of the television watching less than stimulating programming and too many commercials. The average American spends four to five hours each day watching television. Do any of those things make you feel rejuvenated? Once you 're able to look at how you spend your time then you may find that you really do have time to pamper yourself. You just have to prioritize what's really important in the big picture and that includes making yourself one of those priorities.
Here's a couple ideas to help you get started on self care:
*Grab one of your kids coloring books and color one page. Or maybe buy one just for you!
*Go for a walk around the block, without your phone, so you can clear your mind.
*Get a sheet of paper and spend five minutes writing whatever comes to mind.
*Read one chapter of your favorite book.
*Take a power nap.
*Enjoy a cup of decaf coffee or tea.
*Crank up your favorite song and dance like no one is watching.
*Call a friend.
*Learn a new yoga pose and practice it. Don't worry about looking awkward.
*Stretch your body.
*Cuddle with a pet.
*Do a crossword puzzle.
*Look out the window and take in the scenery.
*Grab a ball and roll it around under your feet. Feel the tension release.
Whatever it is that makes you feel rejuvenated, I challenge you to seek it out and actually do it. Do what truly makes you feel good and don't worry about what anyone else thinks. It may be hard at first to make yourself a priority, but I believe that once you get in the habit then you'll wish you had done it sooner. So, what are you waiting for?