Of course, you know you have to take care of yourself. You also know you need to take good care of yourself in order to take great care of someone else. You may even be familiar with the term “Caregiver Burnout.” Knowing, however, doesn’t stop us from burning out anyhow. So, what’s a caregiver to do? While there are plenty of tried and true methods for practicing self-care, these are out-of-the-box and out-of-your-mind (figuratively speaking) ways to change your mind, create a new perspective, and release yourself from the old story of what a caregiver “should be and should look like.”
Here’s a Caregiver’s Guide to Ultimate Self Care.
These tips are one-of-a-kind ways to keep you growing in your role and your journey of being a caregiver. Caregiving mainly has a view of a daunting task; however, let’s recreate that and have it show up as a spiritual journey – a journey for which you, dear soul, have been called to claim.
Let’s have fun with this.
Self-Care Rule Number One
The Two-Letter Word
There’s a two-letter word in every caregiver’s vocabulary that he/she avoids like the plague. It’s a naughty word for caregivers; someone might get angry if a caregiver ever has the audacity to say it. It’s the word….No!
Learning to say the word no is equal to saying the word freedom. Can you say freedom? Go ahead, give it a try- Freedom! That wasn’t so hard now, was it? Freedom in saying no. Why is it so difficult for a caregiver to say the word no in the first place?
Let’s take a look at this. If you had to make up a persona for a caregiver, it would look something like this:
Do You Say YES When You Mean NO?
We, as caregivers, have such a kind, loving, and compassionate makeup that we associate the word no with being mean, selfish, and downright no good. We need to recreate that. No is not a four-letter word; it’s not a dirty word. It’s a necessary word.
Tell the truth, it’s sometimes hard for you to say no to the many requests that come your way – from siblings, from your children, your parents, jobs, co-workers and friends. As a matter of fact, if you ever did say the word “no” you might get a reaction as if you DID say a bad word.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to say no in the beginning; fortunately, it gets ten times easier after only the first time. However, there is an art and a science for saying no and this one trick will make it yards easier. If I had to confess (which I will now), the first time I had to say no to a sibling, I felt myself physically cringe as though a left hook was about to be delivered. Silly huh? Not so much when you are going through it though. I get it and I get you. You can overcome the feeling of going into defense mode when you first find your voice and learn how to say no.
Top Tip for Saying No
When somebody asks you to do something you know you cannot or simply do not want to do, say no. Try it on, even though it’s difficult at first.
Next, they will ask you why or why not. Simply repeat your “no.” Do NOT go on to say anything else. Do not give a reason and do not give an excuse or explanation. People will always try to manipulate you (probably like they’ve done in the past).
Here’s the key: Simply say, “No, I can’t.” Allow – yes allow – the awkward moment to be. You know the moment – the one where it feels like an eternity instead of the microsecond that it really is. Do not offer any further information. If you are asked why, simply state, “No, it’s not something I can or want to do. I am sorry.” You can even take on saying, there are several reasons why this won’t work for me, but that doesn’t matter. My answer is still no. Following up with a statement of “But, I can do this or that if it would help,” makes it easier for you to speak your truth but to be a contribution to another, as well.
Try this on for size and you will be happy to see how it works like a charm every time. Not only that, it makes saying no easier and easier as time goes by. Believe me, once you get past your first, “No” you’ll be laughing at how you are looking for opportunities to say it again!
2. Giving up Control
Now it’s time to tell one on yourself. Do you like to be in control? Do you like to take charge? Here’s the big question – do you like to do things your way? If you are like most caregivers, you want to see things done a certain way. You don’t want to give up control because you are afraid that someone else won’t do things like you do.
When we hold on to control, we play tug of war with ourselves. We only fight with ourselves. Learning to let go of control of the person we love and care for and about on a daily basis can be a struggle – if we let it.
The same way we learned how to say no, now it’s time to learn how to say YES! Learn how to say YES to help. Learn how to say YES to support. Learn how to say YES to someone who is willing to listen. Being a martyr makes you a victim – a victim at your own hand. When you give up a little control, you gain a lot more freedom.
We want to have things done correctly in order to have things ebb and flow. After all, we’ve worked hard to set everything up just so.
Allowing other people to help you is a gift to you and a contribution to them! Why?
Because you allow other people to feel good about helping too.
Because you give other people the opportunity to serve.
Because you get a much-deserved break.
Letting go of control is a win-win situation. It also benefits the person you are caring for; by giving yourself a break and saying yes, you give them a chance to see another face and have interaction with a different personality. It can spice up and enliven their zest for living and be a cause for excitement and eagerness for new company!
3. A Little Self-Kindness Goes a Long Way
If you are a caregiver, chances are you put everyone else’s needs in front of your own. Right? How do I know? Because I do it too. You are not alone in this. There’s a lot of talk about self-love and affirmations. I’ve never really felt too comfortable standing in front of a mirror and saying stuff like, “You look mahvelous dahling!” I’m laughing at the visual here, but you get what I mean so I took on something different – but just as silly and fun!
Try This on For Size
Have you ever thought about going home and enjoying that last piece of coconut cake or sliver of pumpkin pie? I mean you thought about it all day, only to go home, take it out of the fridge, dive that fork right in and someone walks in and says, “Oh, pumpkin pie, is there anymore?”
If I had to tell the truth, I’d probably give the piece of pie away and make up some excuse like, “Oh, I need to lose a few pounds, here you eat it.”
Does this sound like you too? Sometimes compassionate people, like you fellow caregiver, have a tendency to push our needs asides for everyone else’s.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Know what’s better? Tell the person to grab a fork and help you dig in while you chat about the day’s events. You create sharing, you create giving to both yourself and another, and you create community and hospitality. Why is this so important? Because how other people treat us is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves.
I want you to make a declaration here and now – I don’t care if you say it or write it or tell somebody. I want you to say that it’s okay to give and it’s okay to receive too. I deserve to receive all that is good. I am as good as anyone else. I am good enough!
Once I started thinking these thoughts and making these declarations, the way people treated me shifted and transformed. I couldn’t sit here and blame everyone else while I was acting like someone who had no needs, wants, or desires.
Take a minute and treat yourself. How many times do you view treating yourself as this extravagant vacation or an expensive item so you do nothing? Lots, I bet!
Treat yourself to a walk in fresh air
Give yourself five minutes of sunshine on your face
Take a 15 minute nap
Pick out a new tie or some new cologne
Buy some new red lipstick – ooh la la
Buy yourself a flower or two
Buy a new journal and matching pen
Buy yourself a chocolate bar just for you! No, it’s not selfish, it’s selfless toward yourself. It’s okay! Really it is!
You will feel better, happier and more joyful when you remember to include yourself in kindness.
Not only is it okay to perform little acts of kindness towards ourselves, but it’s necessary.
4. Give Yourself a “BE”
What does your image of a caregiver look like? Close your eyes for a few moments, and conjure up the picture of a caregiver in your mind. Okay, now that you’re back, what did you come up with? Was it someone who was tired or drained maybe in their sloppy clothes taking care of someone, lifting that person or cleaning for them? Whatever image you conjured up, probably wasn’t something you would see on the red carpet, right?
Why not give yourself permission today to do something out-of-the-box. I call this my “FREE TO BE” exercise.
Choose a new way to be today! Go ahead, be daring, be bold. Want a few examples, here goes:
Be comfortable stepping a few feet out of your comfort zone
Be child-like – ooooh I like that one
Be in tune
Wow! These are just off the top of my head. What’s your choice for today? What’s your “Way to BE?”
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