You love them, so you take on the role as caregiver. As visitors leave, they tell you, the caregiver, to take care of yourself. Here are some tips how:
- Make all-in-one meals. Stew, soup with meat, beans and vegetables, casseroles. Crock pot meals, where you can dump things into the crock pot, and come back later to eat, and put the rest in serving size freezer containers. When others ask how they can help you, request them to make a simple meal for you to freeze in to portions. Chances are, the person you’re taking care of isn’t eating the same as you, and you’re more likely to make sure they have their needs met than your own.
- I recently gave a training on stress in the workplace. I was amazed how many individuals had never meditated. Based on that finding, we did a one-minute meditation. If you can give yourself one minute. Pick a quiet time. Maybe the person you’re caring for is sleeping. Maybe you’ve arrived to an appointment early. If the other person is open to it, invite them to join you in silence in the car before you go into the appointment. If they’re not likely to support you, do it alone—even in the bathroom if needed! Just close your eyes and breathe in, and out. Lower your shoulders. Feel your face muscles relax. Your mind will wander, gently bring it back to your breath.
- If you do the one minute with ease and want do get more into meditation, move up to five minutes, ten, or twenty. According to UCLA researchers, twelve minutes of daily meditation can improve mental health of family caregivers. The study used chanting yoga (Kirtan Kriya) everyday for eight weeks and saw 50% improvement on a depression-rating scale. Meditation has been known to increase telomerase activity, which slows cellular aging.
This is one of my favorite meditation videos.
- Keep your energy levels up with healthy food that you can eat on the go, if necessary. Bananas, apples, cheese sticks, nuts, crackers, raisins, hard-boiled eggs, carrots, celery with peanut butter – maybe some raisins (isn’t that known as “ants on a log”?), a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. They all travel pretty well. Yes, you could grab a granola or protein bar of some type, but the sugar is quite high and true heath benefit not equal to “real” food.
- If you’re up to your eyeballs in caregiving, maybe you need to volunteer somewhere. WHAT? Some find, volunteering – away from the person for whom they provide care, is energy-giving, not zapping. Maybe once a week at the animal shelter, or art gallery. Know your limits, and what feeds you. It may serve you to volunteer, or to meditate, or walk with a friend every day.
- I recently heard someone claim, “I have a magical bed! When I lie down on my bed, I remember all the things on my to-do-list!” Be purposeful in your aim to get a good night’s sleep. Set yourself up for a restful sleep by having some good sleep habits. Keep distractions like TV, phone, and books in other rooms. Your body will recognize the bedroom as a place to sleep. Disturbed sleep depletes your energy and when you’re sleep deprived, anxiety sky rockets 60%. You’ve got enough going on without increasing anxiety.