I’m not going to mince words. Ask my children. They’ll attest that I am not one prone to beating around the bush. You need to take care of yourself. I’m here, dear reader, to offer some simple tips to keep your life ship from listing to one side or, heaven forbid, sinking.
Time for joy
While it’s true that you have a person (or two or three) who relies on your regular caregiving, you aren’t much good to anyone if you are sick or stressed or angry or overwhelmed. There are many ways you can squeeze in a little self-care here and there, and you owe it to yourself — and your patient — to pull away for a little YOU time.
It is not selfish to ask someone else to step in for even a half-hour so you can regroup and process everything happening around you. A short walk around the block or a quick book read joined by the steam rising off a cup of tea may be all you need to calm your aching spirit.
You deserve the break, and never tell yourself anything different.
Make a regular date with yourself. Whether it’s that cup of tea and a book, journaling every night, a Saturday night bubble bath, a glass of wine with a friend on your porch, all these are small things you can look forward to.
Pick something that brings you the greatest joy and do it — every day or once a week.
Time to nap
Karoshi is the Japanese word for a death caused by working long hours and it’s believed to claim 150 lives annually. Recognizing the stress of working long hours, the Japanese have jumped on the power nap bandwagon. Nap salons dot Japan’s major cities around office buildings — homes to potential stressed-out clients.
You’re not stressed out, are you? Be real. You are. You could use a nap now and then, couldn’t you? Instead of washing dishes or mopping the floor while your patient rests, why not have a rest yourself? Studies reveal that a nap of ten to thirty minutes can refresh you in a variety of ways, like increasing your productivity, cognitive function, memory, and creativity. The best bonus, of course, is that you feel less tired.
Time with your doctor
People find a lot of reasons not to go to the doctor: the cost, the time, the doctor, and so many more unfortunate reasons (excuses) for avoiding the potential for good health. Doctor avoidance should perhaps be listed as an illness, so many people suffer from it. One study from 2020 found that “18% of Americans haven’t seen a doctor in 5 years or more.”
Nearly one-third of respondents in a United States (U.S.) survey reported avoiding the doctor. Even individuals with major health problems or who are experiencing symptoms avoid seeking medical care. Avoiding medical care may result in late detection of disease, reduced survival, and potentially preventable human suffering. (Why Do People Avoid Medical Care, Taber et al., 2015)
Your patient may already have a full slate of doctor appointments, hospital tests, and telehealth calls, but do not ignore your own body’s medical needs. Make and keep your appointment for an annual physical at the very least. And do not, please do not ignore troublesome symptoms or strange findings on your skin. You owe it to yourself and others to ensure you experience a healthy, long life.
Let’s be realistic
It’s been a couple of years since I flew in an airplane, but I recall that on every flight, the staff pantomimes the same safety instructions. You could probably do the demonstration yourself, couldn’t you?
Those simple instructions invariably include “put on your own mask first before helping a passenger smaller or weaker than yourself.” Your self-care “oxygen” may be different from mine. For me, it’s a morning walk or group hike, prayer and Bible time, dedicated writing time, loads of books, a phone call with a loved one, and an evening glass of wine.
To keep the travel metaphors going…Sometimes, drop anchor and take a break.
Now, it’s time for you to commit to yourself, my caregiving friend…what are you going to do for yourself today or tomorrow? Where can you allow your brain to set sail…for just a smidgeon of time on You Island?