The gifts have all been opened… the family turkey dinner has been enjoyed… the tree, ornaments, and leftover wrapping paper have been stored away until next year. The holidays are over (and you may be breathing a sigh of relief that things can now return to a more normal state of affairs). It’s now time to get back to your daily caregiving responsibilities; however, before you resume these tasks, consider making a New Year’s Resolution – to promise yourself more personal respite time.
When thinking of your daily routine and your seemingly endless list of things that need to be done, you may scoff at the idea and think that it is either impossible (you are already running from dawn to dusk) or unnecessary (your aging loved one is your primary responsibility and you can effectively manage). Besides that, there are only so many hours in a day and finding time for yourself may seem far-fetched. But before you dismiss the plan (as many New Year’s Resolutions are made and then broken) and/or call me ludicrous for even suggesting it, please give it some careful thought.
Yes, many resolutions made are often broken (as an example, my gym is much busier with people buying new memberships for the first couple of weeks after January 1st, but those people often drop off for various reasons). While exercising is a noble goal (along with many others), I believe that the way that many people approach weight loss, fitness, and/or better nutrition may not be completely realistic. Which is more attainable – shedding 50 pounds in the next month or simply eating more fruits and vegetables on a daily basis? When you keep your promises simple, you can also avoid being discouraged if (and when) you find they may be too grand or lofty. When resolutions are not – or cannot be achieved – they will often get dropped and leave individuals disappointed and hesitant to try again.
Caregivers can take the same approach with promising – and taking – personal respite time. Anything you do for yourself can be constituted as personal respite time and you can reap the rewards. While you may easily feel overwhelmed with providing help and support for an aging loved one, you must be mindful of your own well-being. If you become too exhausted or sick by trying to take on too much, who will be there for your loved one(s)? You don’t have to take huge leaps towards your own self-care. Instead, try taking small steps towards this goal and you can accomplish more. Can you read a chapter of a favourite book? Can you drive a more scenic route on the way home from the office so to have some time for you? Can you sign up for a weekly yoga class?
Once you have realized the importance of self-care (or at least agreed to experiment with it), you might also want to write your resolution down, post it in a prominent spot in your home where you will see it regularly, or even share it with a trusted friend. You can also share your resolution publicly if you wish … a friend of mine has begun routinely sharing her workout goals and achievements on her Facebook page. She often receives congratulatory messages from others and, by being more open, I expect that she is kept more accountable and she is (likely) more motivated to continue. Vocalizing your goal can be a good way to commit to your promise. Another idea could be to give yourself a small reward when you achieve your goal – this will give you something to work for and anticipate. Personal caregiving respite is not self-indulgent. Promising yourself personal caregiving respite breaks (and regularly taking personal caregiving respite breaks) can better ensure that your new year is happier!
Please watch for my further discussion and tips on caregiver self-care in the months ahead on The Caregiver Network.