“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!!