Finding Me Time


7 Ideas to Help Relieve the Stress of Caring for Others

It is a known fact that caregivers who make time for themselves feel less overwhelmed, maintain more energy and tend to coup with the challenges of caregiving more easily. Most caregivers agree with the concept but are convinced they can’t find the time. You can! Start small (baby steps and dream Big!
These seven smart steps will help you refill your inner reservoir starting today.

  1. Schedule it! Put it on your calendar. Don’t postpone personal time or make it an afterthought at the end of a busy day. Instead, include yourself in your to do list when you plan the day. Early in the day is ideal. Then you’ll be ready to face the day fully energized. For starters, pencil in just 15 minutes. Commit to carving this same time out every day. Life coaches say it can take up to three weeks for a new habit to take hold. Devoting time to yourself helps you make me time a priority. Do something on your break that feels self-indulgent. No laundry. No bill paying. Do something you enjoyed before your life became so busy. Savor a cup of tea, read your favorite poetry or newest paperback, work on a craft or polish your nails. Once you get the hang of it, block out a larger time span at least once a week to do something away from home, get a massage, pedicure, walk the mall, join a support group or attend a book club.
  2. Say “No” once in a while. If you are in the habit of automatically complying with every request try saying “I’m not sure, let me get back to you.” Give yourself time to think about if the request will enhance or detract from your routine. Practicing building the “no” muscle will make it easier next you need to bow out or pass on additional obligations. Like many people with caregiver hearts, you may want to rehearse a few lines so your answer will roll off your tongue more easily, just follow it with…perhaps another time. Be protective of your personal time.
  3. Create a personal space in your home just for you. A spare room, a desk or chair in a quiet corner will do. Decorate your “Me Space” with meaningful belongings, your favorite quilt or cherished photos. Having a personal retreat ensures you’ll be more likely to head there to do something for yourself. Ask others to respect your privacy. When you feel overwhelmed remember you can clear your head and create a “Me Zone” in your head. Close your eyes and take some deep calming breaths. Or, do a mind sweep by jotting down all the things troubling you. Making a list releases tension and helps you prioritize.
  4. Spread work around. Spend less time on things that absolutely require your personal involvement. Engage family (kids too!) and delegate, rotate or job share. Alternate meal preparation, marketing, house cleaning, and home maintenance responsibilities by posting a schedule. Consider a parent-sitting exchange with a friend in similar circumstances. Don’t over compensate. Encourage the person in your care to do things that can be done by themselves. This promotes a feeling of independence, usefulness and contribution for others.
  5. Look for shortcuts and other streamlining efficiencies. Take the time to analyze the way you accomplish your routine tasks with a timing saving viewpoint. Try online bill pay, organize cupboards, drawers, even dishwasher space for efficiency. Meal plan for several days ahead, shop, cook, making enough for a couple of meals to freeze or refrigerate. Even shopping at a time of day when there are no crowds can save time. Do your least favorite things early in the day and save the more pleasant tasks for later when you can savor or enjoy the moment.
  6. Unplug. Try a 15 minute “Silence” from electronic gadgets and TV. The quality of your interaction with others will seem deeper when you focus on a project, person or problem 100%. Your psyche will come away refreshed or with clear answers away from the distraction of phones, games, music or television competing for your attention.
  7. Buy time. Outsource whenever possible. The money you spend on a house keeper could be well worth the money if it yields improvement in your health and emotional stress relief. Pay a grandchild or teenager from church to do yard work for you or hire them for an hour to give you time for a walk or catch a short exercise class. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or time!
    If finances allow, look into companions, professional caregivers, day programs, housekeepers and nursing aides or eldercare professionals. Suggest to other family members a cost sharing plan to make some of these alternatives happen. Many of these caring individuals can give you much need peace of mind.

It’s a winning situation when you leave time to regroup and remember to take care of yourself too. By using some of these tricks, you can be certain that both you and the person you care for come together renewed and refreshed each day as you face the challenges of caregiving ahead.
Caregiver December 2, 2010

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