This is something I hear from caregivers all the time. As professionals, we regularly tell caregivers that they need to take care of themselves and find some time for themselves to make sure that they are well enough to keep up with this demanding role. But what does that even mean?
There are people who feel like “me” time needs to be a day at a spa, a day to get caught up with friends, spending quality time in their garden or out for a hike, or working in your shop, or simply watching movies or enjoying a good book. Sadly, when you’re a caregiver, these luxuries are not always possible. Like so many other things, we have to adjust our expectations.
What could “me” time be when we’re feeling buried under the responsibilities of caregiving? It could be giving yourself permission to order dinner or zip through a drive-thru on the way home to give yourself a break or have a few minutes to “relax” later. It could be purchasing nail polish stickers to keep up a manicure without having to worry about the time to apply polish and wait for it to dry (and they have fun patterns so you can perk up your day that way too). It could be listening to your favorite songs or a recorded book while attending to household tasks. It could be finding a few minutes to engage in meditation, deep or rhythmic breathing, or simply catching your breath.
Another option is to ask for a little help to lighten the load. While we like to take care of everything ourselves, sometimes we need to let go of the things we can in order to focus on the things that are most important to us. Hate doing yard work? See if a neighbor is looking for some extra money and is willing to help. Hate cleaning your house? Look into having someone come even once a month to do the deeper cleaning and freeing up some time for you. Really just need to get away, there are agencies who can come and sit with your loved one or a neighbor might be willing to help out as well. Plenty of youth programs require volunteer service. Perhaps they could provide some help. More times than not, when caregivers take advantage of these opportunities I don’t hear about the expense. I hear “why didn’t I do this sooner.”
Don’t wait to take care of you. Seek out even small victories of “me” time. Cherish them and use them to fuel your way moving forward. The honest truth is, if you’re not OK, your loved one isn’t OK either. Fill your cup so you can continue to fill theirs!