Are you neglecting time for yourself? Cindy was, and she didn’t even realize it. Finally, a concerned friend got in her face and made her realize it.
As a caregiver, you may feel like you don’t have enough time in the day to get everything done. To be honest, you probably don’t even consider yourself a caregiver. You are simply a spouse or child of a Loved One who needs help. You probably just think that the added responsibilities you are carrying are your duty. As a result, you are probably neglecting something just as important: Time for Yourself.
Maybe you, or a loved one, are just beginning the Caregiver Journey because of a Loved One’s sudden decline. Perhaps at the latest holiday/family gathering, you discovered a SHOCKING TRUTH concerning your Loved One’s physical or cognitive state.
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If I take Time for Myself, Am I Being Selfish?
Every week, Family Caregivers send in questions on the Help Me Help Momma Facebook page. Once, a Caregiver submitted the following:
How do you make time for yourself, although that’s impossible to answer. Caregivers are selfless and I’m sure without a doubt they struggle with that guilt if they do take that time. Or, how do you ASK for help with no shame or risk being judged ? How does one become vulnerable enough to ask for help?
This is a great question. Taking time for yourself is necessary, but many caregivers feel guilty if they take time off to care for themselves. They are wired that way. It’s like the guilt is heightened because, as Caregivers, we are so emotionally invested in ensuring that each day our Loved One has a moment of joy. Even if they no longer recognize anyone in the room.
Signs that you are not taking enough time for yourself…
- Lack of Sleep: This might seem obvious. When we have less time, we naturally take it out of our sleep time. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” The problem is, when we sacrifice sleep, our reaction time slows down, our mood is adversely affected, and our decision-making is impaired.
- Unhealthy Diet: Increased caffeine intake, sometimes to unhealthy levels. An uptick in fast food meals through the week. These foods can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, irritability, and impair proper cognitive function.
- Lack of Exercise: Another time block that people are quick to cut out of their lives is gym time. Exercise is preventative maintenance for our bodies and minds. We need it. Not only will it help to curb obesity from our poor eating habits that we just talked about, but it will give us the endurance and stamina to finish our journeys.
- Ignoring Personal Health or Illness: Doctor visits are starting to become a normal thing for us now, right? But for our spouse or Loved One. Those aches, pains, and issues that we’re ignoring are our body flashing the “check engine light” at us. Stop ignoring them! Catastrophic failure will hurt the one you are sacrificing for.
- Caregiver Burnout: We just used the words “catastrophic failure”. There is not much more catastrophic that can happen to us. Caregiver burnout is often a multifaceted problem. It relates to emotional, physical and/or mental breakdown in our lives. Caregiver burnout can even lead to us despising the one who we love the most.
What about Your needs?
You want so much to make them comfortable even though you know they often are in pain or distress because of their decline. You do everything you can to help them find pleasure in the simple things. For example, my Momma found joy in shelling pound after pound of cracked pecans. Shelling those pecans made her smile… Her smile gave me such a great sense of peace and comfort. Yes, it is hard to be a Caregiver. You want to be there every second to make certain that everything is right for your Loved One. I get that. I did that. Momma had everything she needed. I was highly focused on making sure of that. She was clean, comfortable, had good meals and her favorite ice cream.
We went to doctors, did her therapy at home, put together many, many photo albums, worked on her exercises, used the breathing tubes for extra therapy – and still I felt like it wasn’t enough. I felt like I should be doing more to help her get stronger so she could get back out in her garden next spring. I second guessed myself and doubted my choices for her. Even though I was doing a lot for Momma, I felt it just wasn’t enough. I could do better – I wasn’t doing enough.
You have Permission To Take Time For Yourself
In truth, I was a stressed out Caregiver and I didn’t realize it. One day a friend of mine, Tina, got up in my face and said “you need some help caring for your Momma!” I realize now how relieved I was to hear her say that. It seemed like a weight was lifted from my shoulders. I didn’t have to do this all by myself. Furthermore, I now had permission to take care of myself. I’ve got to tell you that I cried tears of relief that night.
- Take a Daycation: Treat yourself to some time for yourself. Take some time alone at a spa, or even a few hours in a book store café. Yes, I know, you need to worry about Mom, but there are adult day care centers who would be a safe and fun environment for her. After a relaxing day, both of you will probably be better off and happier!
- Pray or Meditate: When we take time to clear our minds, we can think clearer and will have less stress. It might seem like we have a lot to worry about, but today’s problems are enough. When we cast our worries out, we are free to experience joy in all situations.
- Don’t Forget to Exercise: We have skipped a few healthy meals lately, replacing them with junk. Likewise, being inside with Mom all the time can make us sluggish and tired. When we take the time to let our blood flow properly, it will elevate our mood as well as strengthen us.
- Take a Moment to Stretch: If you don’t have the time to go to the gym for an hour or more, at least take 5-10 minutes to stretch. Stretching helps with blood flow and circulation. With greater circulation comes increased mood and mental clarity.
- Join a Community: You may already feel isolated, especially if Mom is experiencing cognitive decline. Feelings of isolation lead to loneliness, which eventually will cause caregiver burnout. Unlike a hotrod, caregivers aren’t supposed to burn out. Fellowship and moral support is key to overcoming the loneliness and isolation that we face as family caregivers. Our Facebook Group is a great place to start.
- Breathe: The age-old adage, “count to ten”, applies to more than just anger. Sometimes, a few good breaths will maximize those few minutes you have, and turn them into time for yourself.
You will care more when you are cared for!
You are a Caregiver. That’s who you are. It is such an amazing thing that you are doing for your Loved One – giving your time, your energy, your love and your respect to this person who means so much to you. Now I want you to do one more thing for them – take a break – an hour, a day, a week, whatever you need – for you. Take some time for yourself, and do not feel guilty for replenishing your energy, your mind and your soul. You have earned it.
You never know when the next day is going to be the last day, so give it a hundred percent, but stop and take time for yourself.
Shocked During the Holidays?
Were you shocked over the Holidays when you visited your parent and realized things are worse than you thought? You have your own life, work and responsibilities. What will you do?
We’ve been there & we understand.
That’s why we wrote a book to help you make the best decisions for your parent as quickly as possible.
We want to be friends!
Ok. That might come off a little fast, but you can trust us. We want to help! We fully understand the stress and turmoil that you are facing as Family Caregiver – including personal experiences with burnout.
In our time as caregivers, we have amassed a wealth of knowledge that we desire to pass on. We understand the emotions involved while making necessary decisions. Likewise, we have met many professional caregivers, as well as other family members who were thrust as Family Caregiver. All caregivers have shared the same advice – Join a community! There is nothing more cleansing for our situation than knowing that we are not alone!
We have since created Caregiver Connection. Caregiver Connection is a newsletter that we write personally and send to fellow Caregivers. It is full of tips, tricks, direction and even professional advice. If you would like to sign up, click the button below.
Please Invite Someone to Our Newsletter
Being an Adult Kid who is helping mom as she is declining can be a scary, frustrating and lonely place lacking stability. You feel like you are solely responsible for solving Mom’s problems while managing yours. Some occasional input and a community you can trust would help, especially when facing burnout! This is a way that all of us can be working together as caregivers!
Many others that you may personally know are having to figure it all out by themselves. Most of them have no community. Please take a minute and do them a favor. Copy this link ~> help.mom/cc <~ and send it to them in an email or private message. They can click on it and subscribe to our newsletter for free.
Then they can enjoy weekly tips and encouragement. They no longer have to feel so alone in their family caregiver journey. They will appreciate the favor! Thank you for thinking of them!