Family caregivers do not have to live their lives in overwhelm and crisis. Learning new ways to practice self care is one of the keys to not just surviving caregiving, but thriving in it. You must pause and ask yourself: are you managing caregiving or is caregiving managing you?
If you’re already in the throws of caregiving and feel like you’re standing in quick sand, then I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way. There are things you can do that will reap big results. Help is available and you don’t have to do caregiving alone! In fact, you shouldn’t be doing caregiving alone. When you said YES to caring for your loved one, you did it from your heart and probably had no idea of the challenges you would meet along the way. There are certain ‘secrets’ you need to learn that will help set you on the path to becoming empowered and having more balance in your life.
Learning the art of resiliency is key, and if you are to thrive in your caregiving role, you need to not only learn, but also practice resiliency. Being resilient does not mean running on adrenaline day in and day out. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
Practicing the steps below will set you on your way to finding more balance in your life as a caregiver.
Put Systems and Procedures in Place. This is the ‘Business of Caregiving’ and you have to have systems in place and procedures to help you implement the systems. If you have avoided this step, take some time to systematize whatever you can. (You won’t always be able to stick to the plan, but having systems in place, will really help you.) Don’t try and do too much at one time or you’ll become overwhelmed. Tackle one or two things a week and when you have that mastered, do a couple more.
Be Informed. Worry and anxiety happen when we don’t have enough information. Get educated and stay informed. Information is available everywhere. Just make sure you are receiving yours from a credible source.
Be clear about what you can and cannot do. Being clear about your personal limitations is key. Too many caregivers fail to think about this and they end up in physical and emotional exhaustion.
Manage the guilt. This is huge. You cannot manage caregiving from a place of guilt as a caregiver; you have nothing to feel guilty about. Don’t let guilt be in the driver’s seat. Getting a handle on it is extremely important for your personal well-being.
Manage the daily tasks. You don’t have to do everything in one day or even one week. Scheduling the daily tasks (just like you do at work) will help you slow down.
Stop trying to be Perfect! In other words…cut yourself some slack!
Get Help! Help is everywhere but you need to find the right help and more importantly you need to ask for it.
Take Time Off. Plan your schedule as far in advance as possible and make time for you. This is not optional. (This is usually the place where guilt shows up. Don’t let it.)
Maintain a Sense of Humor. There are funny moments in caregiving and it’s okay to laugh about them.
Don’t Stuff Your Feelings! Your feelings live inside you for a reason and you must honor them. If you don’t honor them, they will always find a way to come out and it won’t always be pretty.
Get Rest, Calm Down and Relax. Sleep if You Can. Learning ways to calm your mind while resting your body is key. You might try a quiet session of getting comfortable and listening to soulful music. Allow yourself to drift off.
Celebrate Your Accomplishments. This seems rather simple, but sadly, most caregivers spend little or no time celebrating much of anything.
Be Grateful. It’s very hard to be unhappy when you find simple things to be grateful for. Consider getting a journal and writing down everything (no matter how small) that you are grateful for.
Nurture Your Personal Spirituality. There is more and more evidence that those individuals who have a spiritual practice cope better with life’s challenges.
Bear Witness. Often just listening and lending comfort to your loved one is enough. You don’t have to always entertain.
Focus on Today. This is all we have. Caregivers spend unnecessary time worrying about the future. You can’t control the future; you can only (partially) control today. For today, live in the moment. Embrace the compassionate act of caregiving and honor the amazing gift you’re giving to another.[Image Credit: http://www.ahchealthenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Support-for-the-family-caregiver.jpg]
Cindy Laverty is a Caregiver Coach. She helps families and individuals put systems and strategies in place to make the journey through caregiving less stressful and more rewarding for everyone. Affectionately called, “The Fairy Godmother of Caregiving,” Cindy Laverty transforms caregivers’ lives. She is the Founder of The Care Company, an online resource dedicated to help caregivers get the answers they need. You can find Cindy at http://thecareco.com She is also the author of Caregiving: Eldercare Made Clear & Simple.