CAREGIVING: A Time For Self Care

By February 18, 2018 September 18th, 2019 Cancer Patients, Caregivers, People

“It is not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.” — Lena Horne, singer

If you are caregiving a child (or children), spouse and/or aging parent, there is a good chance you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed and even burned out. In fact, you may be one of the growing number of people who are trying to balance everyone’s needs – the Sandwich Generation. Even though this is a huge challenge in your life, I wonder if you can also view it as an opportunity for self-care?

When I was caregiving my husband with stage IV cancer, everyday, I made a point to accompany him to the infusion center where he received radiation and chemotherapy. I was also caring for our 13 year old son who had Lyme disease. Every morning, I drove him to school and sometimes had to turn right around to pick him up early because he wasn’t feeling well. During all of this, I continued to work full time in my psychotherapy and coaching practices while regularly checking in with my aging parents and in-laws.

At first, I was stretched way too thin and already feeling burned out. Then, I had an internal shift when I asked myself this question: What would I recommend to my clients if they were as stressed and overwhelmed as I am?

That’s when I decided to turn caregiving into an opportunity for self-love and care.

Even though I didn’t have a lot of time to myself, I choose to do little things throughout each day that made a huge difference for me and my loved ones.

Below are the strategies I used that kept myself sane.

SELF CARE WHILE CAREGIVING

  • Daily Gratitude – Each morning in my journal, I listed three bullet points of what I was grateful for. For example, I wrote: I’m grateful for… my sister’s caring voice mail message; my ability to be helpful; my body for all it does. It only took 30 seconds to start my day off on the right foot.
  • Body Movement – Every morning, there was a period of time between dropping my son off at school and meeting my husband at the infusion center that I used to move my body. I used this time as my opportunity to either take a yoga class, power-walk, or even shovel the driveway of snow. I did anything to keep my body moving, which helped to release stress.
  • Positive Multitasking – During walks, drives, and chores, I was on my iPhone either connecting with a caring friend or listening to positive messaging, such as webinars and walking meditations. This kept any stinking thinking to a minimum.
  • Self-praise and acknowledgement – Because I was stepping up in a real way for other people, I realized that caregiving was a job that deserved accolades and applause. My self-talk included upbeat statements like, “Yay me, I’m so wonderful! Today I earned 10,000 kudos points!!!” Of course, these moments of self-praise always made me smile or even laugh.
  • Presence – One day, I was on a phone session with my client and it dawned on me that I was feeling guilty for not being with my husband or our son during that hour. My poor client didn’t have my full attention! I immediately created an intention to be present with whomever I was with and what ever I was doing. This internal shift changed everything. Because I’m human, I wasn’t present every single second, but certainly more than ever before. The mantra I repeated often was, “I am present and all is well.”
  • Accepting Help – “Can I call you in a pinch?” I’d ask my neighbors, friends and family. Of course, they all said “Yes!” And, I did call them. Every once in awhile, I needed their assistance and they were happy to step in by picking my son up from school, grabbing some groceries at the supermarket, or by simply lending a listening ear.

I hope you try these simple yet very effective self-loving and caring techniques during this challenging time. You deserve it!!

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2 Comments

  • Katrina Sawa says:

    Definitely caregiving is an extremely hard thing to do… more than childbearing I think because usually you’re prepared for raising kids or can get prepared relatively easily or ask for help etc. but with caregiving, it usually comes randomly. You never know when something is going to happen where you need to take care of yourself or a loved one. I’ve had to do it now with my husband going through cancer and my mom after she fell and broke stuff. Thank goodness that I run my own business and I’ve designed it to be more leveraged, with systems and a great team of virtual staff who help me. I could never have kept up with the business while caregiving in those instances and my income would have dropped dramatically if I wasn’t so prepared. Whether you run your own business or have a job, get certain things in your life systematized and prepare just in case something happens because you never know when it will, not if, but when.

  • Thank you for your great comment Katrina! We agree, you never know when you’ll be caregiving your loved one. We love your tip about getting certain things in your life systematized, just to be prepared.