Caregiving is one of the most selfless, beautiful acts one can do for a loved one. But it can also be physically and emotionally taxing.
It can cause stress, anxiety, exhaustion, depression, resentment, tears and fears. All of which can have the effect of reducing the effectiveness of your care!
There's no prescription that can turn caregiving into a cake walk. Dealing with a verbally abusive mother is stressful, there's no two ways about it. Caring for a suffering father will take its emotional toll.
However, there are some things you can do to mitigate the impact of caregiving's challenges. Here are some ideas we've found especially helpful over the years.
Caring for Yourself
MAKE TIME FOR MEANING
Yes it's a stressful time. But even in our darkest hours, if we find meaning in our efforts, we can find motivation to continue doing what we're doing. Take comfort in knowing you're living a life with purpose. You don't have to wake up and ask yourself what am I living for? You're sustaining life. You're providing comfort. You're making someone smile. You're bringing kindness into the world. That's meaningful.
Viktor Frankl called it "tragic optimism" - affirming the positivity of life, in the most dire of circumstance, by finding purpose and meaning in our actions, no matter how small.
MAKE TIME FOR HAPPINESS
Caregiving can be dark. Create moments throughout the day to find happiness within your caregiving context, as well as outside of it. For example, play music that makes you and your mother smile. Watch a movie together. Read or listen to a book. Facetime the grandchildren. Share a sweet desert like a chocolate bar or almond croissant. Make their favorite dinner.
MAKE TIME FOR FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Being with anyone 24X7 can be difficult. Enlist help and get some time off. Spend that time with family and friends. There are two reasons to do this. Study after study shows that nothing brings us more happiness than healthy relationships with family and friends. Use those relationships to bring joy to your life. Go for a dinner, a movie, a walk, a drink, play cards, a round of golf. Just find an excuse to be with family and friends as often as you can.
If you're worried about your loved one you're caring for, find someone to cover for you. It could be a sibling or a professional caregiver who comes once a few times a week to give you a break. Many local aging resources may be able to find you respite resources to help give you a break.
MAKE TIME FOR PHYSICAL EXERCISE
Staying active is one of the keys to feeling good. Go out for a walk every day. Do an indoor exercise routine that's not dependent on going to the gym or going outside. It can be wall sits, jumping jacks, push-ups, crunches, yoga or tai chi. Exercise helps clear the mind.
MAKE TIME FOR MENTAL EXERCISE
While exercise and friends are great for your mind, you can also do some more formal work on clearing your mind. Try meditation. Download an app like Headspace. Try it for 5 minutes a day and then work your way up.
MAKE TIME TO EAT WELL
Nutrition is not only important to our health, but to our state of mind. Eat well. You can always make time for healthy foods. You may be stressed and your time may be short, but eating take-out, prepared foods or limiting your food intake everyday can take its toll.
MAKE TIME FOR SLEEP
Exhaustion alone can cause you to be more irritable and less able to cope with stressful situations. Get as much rest as you can. If you're having trouble sleeping due to anxiety, try to find a new routine. Keep your phone out of the bedroom. Meditate before bed. Avoid caffeine and cigarettes. Take naps throughout the day.