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Caregiving – Reclaiming a Balanced Life
What Lies Behind Us and What Lies Before Us Are Tiny Matters Compared to What Lies Within Us
Oliver Wendell Holmes
No one can expend all their energy, strength, and time giving to someone else, especially in the demanding role of caregiver, without replenishing their own reserves. But how do you figure out what you need to do? How do you even notice that you need to do something? When many parts of your life seem out of balance, where do you begin to try and fix it? This article offers simple yet powerful questions meant to help you find a way to identify how you are doing and what you need to change. They are intended to help you ask the kind of questions that dig a little deeper into your caretaking experience and help you really focus on yourself.
HOW IS MY BODY HOLDING UP UNDER THE STRAIN?
As a caregiver, it is easy to ignore the warning signs your body is trying to give you. You may have recurring symptoms or illnesses that are making you feel exhausted and stressed. These symptoms can be used as a measure of how you are coping if you take the time to listen.
Sit quietly and pay attention to your body and notice how you are feeling. Is there an area that feels painful or tight? Are you aware of any chronic health problems you have not been getting help for? How stressed do you really feel? Dealing with the symptoms that may be bothering you is important. Left unattended, they can result in you becoming chronically ill and unable to care for your loved one. Take that important step and get help to look after yourself. Caregivers develop chronic conditions at nearly twice the rate of non caregivers so don’t let this happen to you.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE OTHER PARTS OF MY LIFE?
Remember that being a caregiver is only one aspect of who you are! Finding a way to fit in the other parts of your life such a friends, recreation, rest, and work will help you balance your caretaking responsibilities. Taking care of yourself is important.
Complete the following exercise to gain a better understanding of what your life is like now. Draw a circle on a piece of paper and divide it into 8 sections resembling a pie. Take 8 of the following words that represent different facets of your life and label each section. Add any other words you feel are more appropriate. After your have labeled each section, write a percentage in each space describing how happy you are with this area of your life. For example, if you are sleep deprived and feeling exhausted, the number you give for rest might be 10%.
Activities of Daily Life Finances and Paperwork Nutrition Balance Fun Physical Environment Career Health Rest and Solitude Exercise Hobby or Special Interest Significant Other or Spouse Family and Friends Independence Spirituality
WHAT WOULD I LIKE TO CHANGE RIGHT NOW?
The area of your life that you scored the lowest usually provides the best place to make a positive change. Changing something in one aspect of your life often has a profound ripple effect and may improve many other areas. For the section that you would like to improve, consider what is holding you back from being 100% happy there? What do you need to do to improve the situation? What support do you need to do this and where do you need to go to find it? Now, take a bold step and do it! Make the change you need to find that healthy balance.
WHERE DO I NEED TO PAT MYSELF ON THE BACK?
Those who find themselves in the role of caregiver often give hours of loving care to others and rarely focus on themselves. They are much quicker to notice what they feel they are not doing rather than celebrate what a difference they’re really making. Caregiving is about relationships and nobody can replace the gift that the caregiver is giving to their loved one. Take the time to celebrate who you are and know that no matter how much you’re doing, it is enough. You are really making a difference!
Further Reading« Maintaining Intimacy in a Chronic Illness / Past Successes, Future Hope »