Have you ever heard the saying – “A penny for your thoughts”? As I set sail into the role of caregiving for a close friend, albeit for a relatively brief time, I hear my mind jumping from thought to thought and think, gosh, those pennies would sure add up!
When you add caring to your routine, whether professionally or personally, children or adults alike, your to-do list gets longer, and those thoughts are more frequent. Something happens with your car, you forgot about your yearly eye exam, and somehow the birthday gathering for your significant other is this weekend. Oh no – you completely forgot about the cake!
Overwhelm can cause mistakes. Slowing down a bit avoids pitfalls (as much as possible). Those thoughts are worth much more than mere pennies if they are cared for properly – just don’t let them swamp you. When you multi-task, although it seems like you’ll get more done, you actually lose productivity by dividing your attention.
A few ideas to help:
- Set limits on how much you can do. Saying no, even if it’s too yourself, is a powerful way to maintain work/life boundaries.
- If you forget something along the way, don’t beat yourself up.
- Make time for walking/exercising, especially Those moments of focus go a long way in helping you stay in for the long haul.
- Disconnect – completely. I know that may sound counterproductive, but in truth it can be life-saving. Go to the beach, take a dip in the pool, watch a movie, or do something else to take your mind OFF what needs to be done. You’ll be more productive in the long run.
- Begin your days by prioritizing your tasks. Then, check things off that you’ve accomplished at the end of the day. A pat on the back for ‘done’ goes a long way.
- Consider allowing yourself a “brain dump” where you write down all those random penny-for thoughts, and sort through them to determine their level of importance.
Aside from that list, communication and planning are vitally important.
Good communication skills are essential. Whether it is with the person you are giving care to or your hairdresser, think, pause, and then speak. Words are your best ally but can become your worst enemy if not used correctly.
Take time to plan. Schedule time on your calendar for things that need to be done so that when your list trails off into something else, you can keep yourself on track. Set an alarm on your phone, or even use an old-school egg timer or the timer on your microwave. Is that annoying when you’re in the middle of something? Perhaps. But taking a break to reset your brain with a walk, or even just a drink of water, can be the difference between getting things done, and having your list of things to do overwhelm you. Good planning may even enable you to “cash in” a few of the penny thoughts that were threatening to take over.
When you become a caregiver, don’t forget to consider yourself. Caring inwards before caring outwards creates a more balanced human: YOU!