Bring “Oxygen” to Your Life

There never seems to be enough hours in the day.  If you are a caregiver, you know this better than anyone, for your schedule is not your own.  Yet, I have heard many of my elderly clients say, “You must make the time because it is important to your well-being.”  Here are some suggestions I have learned along the way that might bring some “oxygen” to your life, so you can breathe again.

  • You’re all you’ve got!  Make dates with your spouse and children to keep your sanity in check, and the bonds of relationships fresh.  This is imperative, so make yourself a promise to do this.
  • Rest and replenish, even if you have to steal private moments in the backyard, in prayer or meditation, or just sitting.
  • If you are experiencing guilt, anger, jealousy, resentment, etc., seek the assistance of close friends, a counselor, your minister or rabbi.  Realize that most of what you are feeling is perfectly normal.  Know when to seek professional help, if you become depressed, anxious, or experience feelings that are not normal.
  • Combat depression by finding time to engage in an activity that brings you pleasure — a walk with your children or grandchildren, writing in your journal, getting out to shop for 2 or 3 hours.  Respite care is available in many communities, just so you can rest from caregiving.
  • Pay attention to these things: sleeping, nutrition, exercise.  Eat as well as you can; snack on fruits (natural pick-me-up) and granola bars, plus plenty of water.  The brain is less tired when hydrated and your organs love it too.  Sleep is one of the first things we miss in stressful situations.  Instead of relying on sleep aids, try listening to soothing music, curling up with a good book, and cutting down on caffeine.
  • If your loved one is napping, pop a yoga DVD into the TV and do some stretching; very invigorating.  Better yet, if you can get away for an hour, go get a massage.
  • Listen to music during the day, preferably easy listening, classical, or other calming music.
  • Spiritual self-care: make time for reflection and spend time with nature.  Stay connected to your faith-based organization, or consider joining one.  Be open to inspiration that will come from others.  Surround yourself with kind and loving people.

© 2010 Julie Hall

How to Care for Yourself While Caring for Others

I find it hard to believe there is actually a word in the English language that could possibly describe what caregivers go through.  There can’t be.  What is experienced during the caregiving process is often a deep, emotional shift accompanied by confusion, frustration, even resentment for many.  Somewhere along the line, one loses oneself and their individuality blurs with the needs of the loved one.

Most are caregivers out of love and affection, and others caregive because it is not financially feasible to pay for professional care.  Perhaps a child has a strong desire to care for mom and dad, or possibly a sense of obligation.  They will caregive for as long as they can, only to surrender when they reach a point when they can no longer offer the quality of care the loved one really needs.  It make no difference what the scenario is — all have experienced the same emotional labor.

Who then will care for you, the caregiver?  Ultimately the answer is you.  We’ve all heard the saying: “You have to remain strong for those you care for, so please take care of yourself.”  But are caregivers really taking the time to replenish their bodies, minds, and souls?  If I were a betting lady, I would say no.

As a dutiful daughter myself, I would, without thought, put my parents first at every turn, and would eventually become weak in body, mind and soul.  Lost somewhere between raising children and tending to fragile parents, there is a place called limbo, and we must prevent ourselves from going there by anchoring to a solid, stable place.

What I have learned along the way from my clients is that it is 100% necessary to tend to yourself.  This brings with it the image of being on an airplane; the flight attendant talks about placing the oxygen over your moutn before assisting others.  You do this because without you, others might perish.  The strong one must get stronger (have oxygen) before helping those who aren’t strong.  Place the mask over your face and “breathe.”  The same is true when your feet are on the ground, and you are a caregiver.

Next week, I’ll offer some specific suggestions for bringing “oxygen” to your own life.  Please come back!

© 2010 Julie Hall