Sometimes you don't realize you're actually drowning
Are You A Caregiver?
You have one of the hardest jobs in the world, even though you may deeply love the ones you are caring for. Providing care for those who cannot care for themselves whether they are elderly or incapacitated in some way, is a difficult job that keeps you always on high alert. Whether you work in a nursing facility or are a private caregiver, it is a sure bet that you do not put yourself on top of your list of things to do.
Taking the time to do self-care is not something that is high on most caregivers lists. In fact, self-care is usually close to the last item on their To-Do List. Most do not take enough time to care for themself because they spend all of their time caring for others, and in their mind that is exactly the way it is supposed to be.
However, caregiver’s self-care is vital to them and also those that they care for. Most caregivers, don’t realize that if they took the time for themself the result would be having a more peaceful, enjoyable experience for both themself and the ones that they care for.
Caring for elderly parents or non-related elderly people can be one of the most emotionally and physically taxing jobs that must be done. The caregiver often receives little or no support, especially when it is an in-home situation. In those situations it is extremely important that they find the time and make the effort to take care of themself instead of only providing for the elderly patient.
It can change the atmosphere and the environment for all involved when the caregiver is peaceful and well cared for. When an in-home caregiver has had the opportunity to take a nice bath, eat a good, relaxing meal, go see a movie with friends, anything that makes them feel comfort, joy and relaxation they bring back that feeling to their environment where it is shared with everyone. The old saying “Happy Wife – Happy Life” very must applies, with a few modifications.
Happy Caregiver = Happy Patient = Pleasant Environment
Often there is no way to avoid many of the things that come up during the day that require extra time and effort for a caregiver, so it becomes very difficult to make and stick to a plan. When a caregiver’s plans for self-care situations to happen outside of the time of duty it creates a more peaceful mindset, a less stressed caregiver and a caregiver who is more readily able to think quick on their feet and be less stressed in any situation. Taking that time to make sure to relax and enjoy life outside of work time, will have the effect of an improved attitude, which is the best way to make the job more pleasant. It will generate a lightened mood for the patient simply by the caregiver demonstrating a lightened mood. So one of the best things a caregiver can do to make their own job less stressful is to take good care of themself so that they are prepared for every new day with a good attitude to deal with the unexpected things that they know will happen.
Having been a caregiver for elderly family members I know that most people will say that it just doesn’t work that way, there isn't ever enough time to take care of everything that is required to be done. I agree with that statement, but that is not the point. Some things are going to go undone, until later, so why not allow something else to go undone while the caregiver takes care of themself. It will help them to be more energetic and quite possible more eager to take on even more then next day. Whether there is time or not is not the dispute, there will never be time to take care of everything.
Being aware that the caregiver is an important element in the equation and that the caregiver holds much control over the success or not of the attitudes and pleasure of the environment. Sadly, most caregivers do not think highly of themself, they don't put themself first in anything that they do. In order to make these adjustments they will need to change their point-of-view.
This whole point is a mind-set that develops once the caregiver learns that they set the tone for themself and the ones that they care for. Stress and anxiety builds upon itself. A simple situation can blow up into a huge issue in a matter of moments, and it is usually dependent on how the person in charge handles it. When caregiver’s take the time for self-care the overall effect is that the caregiver is less stressed because in the back of their mind they know that they get to take the time for themself tonight, or tomorrow or whenever it is planed next, it is not a never ending situation. Just having a self-care plan in place will remove a lot of potential stress from many situations.
Many caregivers who overlook their own needs feel that they can push through, they say things like just toughen up and just get it done. It is something a football coach may say to a young player, but it is not something that any caring person should ever tell themself. When the caregiver becomes a tough, push through type of person everyone around them suffers. All involved will feel the pushing through. The caregiver will feel the action of getting tough and will no longer enjoying the work, it will become a greater burden. To the caregiver it often becomes a situation of doing things to get done rather than caring about how they are being done. A loving caregiver does not set out to be a tough, distanced and distracted person who pulls away from the people they are caring for. But the tough, push through at all cost attitude can come on easily when a caregiver gets burnt out, is too tired, is overworked and going without self-care.
Taking time to care for themself does not mean that a caregiver needs to take time away from the people that they care for, instead it means that they need to make sure to take time each day to do something that makes themself feel good. If the caregiver finds small bits of time each day that give them a chance to relax and rejuvenate they will feel better. Then once or twice a week they schedule time to do things that are larger and take more time. That effort is going to create a much different attitude and environment for any caregiver, elder-care provider (and even moms too).
There is one more element that is critical to these changes working and that is to make sure that the caregiver has an attitude of appreciation for the time that they do have for self-care. Make it a priority, but don’t get greedy about it. An elder-care provider can take a few minutes for personal time while the patient is taking a nap or content watching TV. In those small bits of time, have your plan well laid out so that you know exactly what you are going to do when the time arrives. As you are doing it, enjoy every moment.
An attitude of appreciation of the time spent in self-care, no matter how small the time period spent is a vital part of self reward. The feeling of appreciation will linger, even when other more negative energies try to come into the day.
One thing I’ve heard time after time is I don’t know what to do to take care of myself. So I suggest that you write two lists. The first list is of self-care things you can do daily that will take only a short period of time, and cost nothing or only a small amount.
Here are some suggestions on how to include self-care in a normal day:
– Plan the day and evening in order to get good sleep.
– During the work day enjoy music, crafts or activities with those you care for.
– Write a list of things you enjoy like: taking a bubble bath, a movie and a glass of wine, reading a book, walking in the rain, try to do at least one per day to create your “Me Time.”
– Have a book you enjoy at the ready that you can grab just as soon as time and situations allow. (this is especially important for those small bits of self-care time)
The second list is for more luxurious types of items. Things that you would do less often because they cost more time and money. If you can do one of these a week, that would be great, but once a month is wonderful too.
– doing your nails
– going out to dinner with a friend
– visiting the beach or local park
– Ideas for a list of Luxury Self-Care Items, things you enjoy, but they cost more money and more time, so you do them less often, like: a massage, foot reflexology, a spa day, a new hair color. Do those things as often as possible.
For some caretakers it is not easy to keep a good attitude going day in and day out because the people you care for live in your home and you work 24/7/365. You too have limits and you need to ask for help. Not asking for help in order to maintain your own self-care is a big mistake that many women make. I can count myself in that group, when my child was young I hardly ever took time, I didn’t think it was right to take that time away. I remember thinking I was being selfish if I went to do anything that was for me.
I realized that I needed to change my thinking when my daughter was about 8 years-old and I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease (Rheumatoid Arthritis) which is known to be caused by living in a stressful environment. When the caregiver gets rundown the job is much more difficult to do, much more stress results from ordinary situations, and everyone is affected negatively by the caregiver with a rundown, negative attitude. Even newborn babies can feel the mood and energy of the caregivers around them. The negative energy of the caregiver rubs off on everyone around and makes them also feel stressed, negative, and questioning whether they are responsible for the negative attitude of the caregiver.
Plan out your self-care time, and give it a high priority in your life. It will change how your entire life plays out. Be aware of your mood, energy and attitude and ask for support regularly. When you get time for self-care enjoy that time to its fullest. Treat yourself as an important element in the delivery of patient care and you will have greater respect for your own needs of self-care.
By Wendy Mae, Ph.D.
Academy of Spirit
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Here is an article by Nancie Vito tha appeared in the August 24, 2015 edition of The Huffington Post that continues to build on this topic.
Help Others for a Living?
Here Are 5 Ways to Care for Yourself So You Can Care for Others
by Nancie Vito
While “those who care for others professionally” encompasses a variety of fields, I’ve noticed that oftentimes the ones who put themselves last are those who work in health care, such as nurses, aides, techs, home health workers, social workers and the like. These caregivers tend to take on extra shifts at a moment’s notice, skip meal breaks and sometimes can’t remember the last time they took a restroom break.
Burnout rates are astounding. Furthermore, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, health care workers, nursing home workers and social workers are among the top 10 professions with high depression rates. A recent study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine also reported that social workers, counselors, and home health aides have a high obesity rate. These folks often work long hours and help very vulnerable populations with a great deal of needs, often with little resources to offer. No wonder they are prone to illness and depression.
When you are someone who naturally nurtures others, or who has chosen caring for others as a career, you usually give all you have 100 percent of the time. Unless you make a conscious effort, you rarely leave anything behind for yourself and, in the long term, it can sometimes hurt your own health and relationships.
Caring for others involves both emotional and physical care, yet we sometimes think we’ve taken care of ourselves simply by attempting to get a good night’s sleep. It’s not enough. We cannot thrive until we’ve taken care of all our basic physiological needs (which, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, are food, water, air, warmth and sleep). If we are not thriving, we have nothing left that we can spare for others, either physically or emotionally. It’s like trying to drive your car when the fuel tank is empty.
Self-care needs to be part of your daily routine, and here are five (often well-needed) reminders of how you can do that:
1. Stay hydrated. Ensure your body is fueled with the source it needs the most and that is water. Carry a water bottle with you so that even if you don’t have time for a break you can ensure your body stays hydrated.
2. Sleep. Aim for 7 hours per night so that your performance isn’t impaired the next day. Ensure the room is as dark as possible — ideally you will not be able to see your hand in the dark. This allows your body to move into the optimum space for allowing sleep. The ripple effect that comes from not getting quality sleep can be detrimental.
3. Eat. Plan ahead as much as possible and bring food with you so you’re not tempted to just grab junk food on the run. Ultimately however, just eat something. Your body is not designed to work at high output all day without nourishment.
4. Wind down. Find something that allows you to shut your mind and body down at the end of the day. Turn off the TV, have a candlelit bath, listen to a meditation track or even indulge in some coloring. Each of these allows your mind to slow down and the stress to dissipate.
5. Say no. It is essential to learn the art of saying no. Whether it is no to an extra shift, no to added tasks that push you beyond your limits or no to a demanding patient, you have to put limits in place to ensure you don’t suffer for someone else’s care.
If you have read these points and you’re saying “I know all that,” perhaps you could be thinking about how well you are applying them. A night’s sleep or a good meal now and then isn’t enough; it needs to be consistent for your daily energy and to prevent your own chronic health conditions. If you’re feeling worn out, it may be time to change your habits.
Remember, the more care you take of yourself, the better care you can take of others. It’s not selfish and it isn’t taking anything away from others. On the contrary; it allows you to give the best care you possibly can, without suffering for it.
Click Here to go to this article in The Huffington Post
The author of all blog posts on this page is Wendy Mae, Ph.D.
Academy of Spirit
PO Box 82854
Kenmore, WA 98028 USA
AcademyofSpirit (at) gmail.com
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