Being faced with tough decisions isn’t easy for anyone, and it can be a daily occurrence for family caregivers. Undoubtedly the decisions about your loved one but what about choices for yourself? How many of you think about that?
Pleasing others while ignoring your own needs can be one of the most destructive things you’ll do. I’ve had to make some tough decisions recently, and I made myself stop and think before I spoke. Were the words I was about to say from a state of pleasing someone else? Pure panic? Or a truth coming from me and what is best. Ultimately, if you aren’t doing what is best for you too, no one will win.
As a family caregiver, your needs often come second, and there are surely times that has to happen. But there are also times that putting yourself first is not only possible but imperative. Not taking the time out to do things for yourself, even the smallest will build up. So too will the resentment. It’s a festering pool of doubt, anger, resentment and the combination is toxic.
Here are a few things that I started to do post-caregiving and wish I had engaged in during caregiving. I hope they will bring some light to you as well:
Make a list of the things that you want to do and find a way over the course of a week to do at least one of them. This can be as small as going for a coffee in the afternoon at a local shop or writing in your journal.
When you are in the middle of reacting with your loved one (or anyone in your life for that matter) stop and pause. Is their reaction or their words coming from fear? (Fear is one of the strongest emotions there is, and it often has no rationale to it). Or is it confusion that you might be able to clear up with a simple conversation? Perhaps it is consistent, and medications need to be addressed? Stop. Pause. Then react.
Stop worrying about what others think of what and how you are doing things for yourself. If you continue to fear that taking time for yourself will be looked upon as selfish, stop right this minute. I will continue to repeat this because I know I didn’t do it enough for myself and can still do it, fill up your tank first. Going on empty serves no one, and it will backfire, I assure you.
Wake up in the morning, take a deep breath, acknowledge all that you are doing, take another deep breathe, and acknowledge YOU.
Thank YOU for all that you do!