Sorting through and packing my belongings … lining my apartment hallway with moving boxes … changing my mailing address … beginning the final “clean” … cringing at the number of jobs still on my “to-do list”. I am officially moving at the end of this month – a job that never gets any easier! Why am I sharing this news and just how is this relevant to you? During my recent flurry of activity, I have been reminded of the similarities between my current workload and a caregiver’s workload.
As a caregiver, your days may very well become hectic as well. Your hours will be taken and after eight hours for a good night’s sleep and eight hours on the job, there are only eight hours left in each day. In this time, you will need to squeeze in your caregiving responsibilities as well as tend to your own family’s needs. With remembering my own caregiving years for my own parents, my time quickly disappeared as there was never a shortage of things for me to do. In an attempt to provide myself more time each day, I often began early and ended late. Furthermore, if I wasn’t actively involved in doing something for Mom and Dad (e.g. driving either parent to a doctor’s appointment, picking up a prescription, or paying their bills), I was always “on-call” – I was either concerned with Mom/Dad’s health, mentally planning tomorrow’s schedule, wrestling with a caregiving issue, or worried I might get a phone call about a parental emergency. All of this resulted in higher anxiety.
Whether you are helping and supporting a senior, or planning and preparing for an upcoming move, it doesn’t matter who you are; when a person takes on too much work or tries to manage too many jobs with tight deadlines, he/she can easily become overwhelmed. I have found myself losing sleep lately, routinely checking my watch while waiting in a line-up, becoming increasingly impatient with other drivers, snapping at friends and family, and feeling a higher level of stress with life in general – I suspect that, as a caregiver, you can well relate at some level. While I have been packing boxes and leaving them in conspicuous piles ready to be hauled away to either the local Goodwill for donating or my new home, I can’t ignore them. Instead of deftly attempting to manoeuvre around my piled boxes, I take a lesson from my own previous caregiving experience and practice self-care (or respite). For me, this means than I maintain my writing and running schedules – both of these activities often help to clear my head and have very positive results.
Your own body will tell you when you have too much on your plate; however, it’s up to you to listen and respond. Instead of allowing stress to consume you entirely, be proactive rather than reactive. My message here is this – caregivers spend far too much time and energy helping and supporting others and completely ignoring their own health and wellness. By all means, take a break just for you. There are countless options as to what you could do; however, I would recommend that you devote this time to doing something that you find interesting, enjoyable, and relaxing. Resist the urge to spend your own respite time with your own family as your topic of conversation could easily swing back to your own caregiving issues. With respite time, your focus should be completely on you.
You could continually struggle to manage everything and ineffectively multitask, but why? Your own caregiving duties (much like my own moving boxes) will still be there after you return and you will likely have an improved attitude and more energy to deal with them.
Please watch for my further discussion and tips on caregiver self-care in the months ahead on The Caregiver Network.