When you get on an airplane, you hear the drill: In case of emergency, put on your own oxygen mask, then help others. “I probably use that analogy in every class I teach,” says Jenny West, Caregiver Support Community Educator at Family Means in Stillwater, Minnesota. “You have to be at 100 percent to give 100 percent.” Here, West provides a few tips on making time for yourself—you can’t invent an extra hour in the day, but you can control how well you take care of yourself in times of stress.
- Celebrate Your Successes Every Day
Caregivers always have a rolling to-do list. Look at the things you’ve accomplished, and then take some time for yourself so you can get up and do it again tomorrow. “The first thing caregivers do is eliminate book club, yoga class, or knitting. They immediately stop doing things that give them joy,” West says. “You need to renew your soul.”
- Surround Yourself with Supportive People
Your care receiver has doctors, therapists, nutritionists, and you, the caregiver. But who do you have on your team? Assemble it and establish routines that lighten the load. “The more people you have involved, the more connections the care receiver has, and the more options YOU have for respite,” West says. “It is a gift—even to the receiver. They have a lot of losses going on, and usually part of that is a loss of social connection.”
- Stop Multitasking
“Be present, as hard as that can be,” West says. “Sometimes being in the moment helps you slow things down.” Slowing down can provide the clarity to determine what you can hand off so you can go to a movie with a friend.
- Let Go of Control
“In caregiving, you have no control, but you’re trying to constantly grab at it,” West says. Accept that things will ebb and flow, and know that taking time out to do a yoga class will not change the outcome of the disease, but it will make you more equipped to handle stress.
- Know Your Role
A lot of times as a caregiver, you are also a close family member. It gets stressful when you don’t know what role you’re in —caregiver or daughter? When you know what your role is, you can more easily delegate tasks you don’t feel comfortable handling, from bill paying to personal care. A service can then help you relieve that stress, so you can go back to being the daughter (or whatever role you play) for a little while.
- Be Aware of Your Own Energy Level
“A caregiver’s schedule is often go-go-go. You need to decompress and process what’s going on around you,” West says. Know what your stress indicators are for emotional, mental, and physical distress. Then match the activity you need up with the type of stress you are experiencing.
How Do You Take Time for Yourself?
What tips and tricks do you have when remembering self care? Share your thoughts, advice and activities in our comments section–everything helps!