Setting and Crossing Boundaries

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More often than not, being a primary caregiver can leave little room for creating a balance with the other important parts of your life. All caregiving and no life can leave you one burnt out mess! Setting boundaries is important when there are specific duties that need to be done at specific times and in terms of what you will and cannot do. However, crossing the boundaries of confinement in your life is an exercise in expanding your horizon. Both have their place.

When you are new to caregiving, it may be wise to set a schedule and stick to it. This is the time to define your role, learn what you need to know, gather your resources and come to terms with how to fit these new responsibilities into your daily life.

Most caregivers take their caregiving seriously — sometimes too seriously. Once this happens, you have lost perspective and are headed for trouble. There needs to be more to your life than taking care of other people.At some point, you need to take the time to care for yourself.

If you are one of the many caregivers running on overwhelm, here are some tips to un-blur the lines and regain some semblance of balance.

1. This is a simple centering exercise to bring you into the present: STOP everything you’re doing RIGHT NOW. SIT DOWN and JUST BREATHE for at least 2-5 minutes, longer if you are able. Try not to think about what you think you need to be doing because the fact is that you are doing what you need to be doing — just breathing, that’s all. Now SMILE, just for the sake of smiling for one minute. Then, take a deep breath, get up slowly and carry on with your day. DON’T RUSH, You’ll actually get more done by slowing down and paying attention to the details of each task. Be sure to complete one task before going on to the next one. There is a time for multi-tasking, but this is not it!

2. Know your limits — No one (even you) can be expected to give more to giving care to another than you have to give. Always keep some of yourself for you and others.

3. Practice H.A.L.T.(S) — Never allow yourself to get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. You might also add an “S” for Sick, Stressed or Sad!

4. Maintain flexibility! Don’t get so locked into a routine that any interference becomes an obstacle in your day. Life happens; it doesn’t follow a set pattern. Actually, it can be enormously refreshing to disrupt your normal routine on purpose and do something differently just because.

5. Take Time To notice and acknowledge: (1) something for which you are grateful, (2) something beautiful, (3) something humorous, etc., every day!

Healthy boundaries are a touchstone of happy relationships; they guide us in our understanding of ourselves and our interactions with others. When the boundaries we’ve set no longer serve us, it’s time to move the line, not tow it.

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About the Author

Dr. Jamie Huysman

Jamie Huysman, PsyD, LCSW is Vice President of Provider Relations and Government Affairs at WellMed Medical Management, a UnitedHealth company. He has almost 30 years of medical and behavioral health experience in nonprofit and for profit corporate leadership roles in both hospital and managed care environments. He co-founded the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation that created a new level of care for caregivers around the country and received Florida' Social Worker of the Year Award for that work in 2008. Since 1992, his program, TV AftercareTM has provided millions of dollars worth of follow-up care for talk, court and reality show guests. He co-authored the acclaimed Take Your Oxygen First: Protecting Your Health & Happiness While Caring for a Loved One with Memory Loss and was featured in The 100 Mile Walk: A Father and Son on a Quest to Find the Essence of Leadership, Voices of Caregiving and Voices of Alcoholism. Dr. Huysman writes for Caregiver SOS, Florida MD and Today's Caregiver magazines and blogs on

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