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Taking care of others is so hard.
Parker Palmer, an American author, educator, and activist says that self-care is never a selfish act. It is taking care of the one thing you have to use to care for others. And he would know: He’s the founder of the Center for Courage and Renewal.
Self-care is way more than a glass of chardonnay in a bubble bath, except for when it’s totally a glass of chardonnay in a bubble bath. Self-care needs to happen in every area of your life.
Some general examples of self-care:
When you are caring for others, your self-care needs to ramp up to an eleven. Think of it in terms of water:
Here are 4 Smart Steps to self-care.
This isn’t easy, on anyone. And the guilt or anger you feel at having to sacrifice your time and a lot of your life for the care of your loved one is not a reflection on how much you love them. These are two separate issues.
Identify who is in your life — and your loved one’s life — that could be helpful.
Could your sister take mom to the doctor? Or, if she lives out of town, could she come every 3 months for a weekend so you can getaway?
Could a neighbor or community friend sit with your mom 2-4 hours a day once a week? And could you find more than one?
Read this piece about putting together your team.
It may seem like the last thing you want to do, but get up 15 minutes earlier and meditate, starting the day with slow breaths. Write 3 things you are grateful for in a journal, and make this a ritual while you drink a cup of hot tea.
When you are cooking in the kitchen, listen to a podcast. Treat yourself to that bubble bath or get some essential oils and add a drop or two to your shower and breathe deeply while you have on some nice calming music… do this for yourself.
Plan things to look forward to. It’s amazing the light that a bright spot in the future can bring to the present.
Are there resources out there you don’t know about that could help you? Is there a local Alzheimer’s support group that might have daycare during the program?
Maybe they have grant funding for respite hours that you could use to pay a sitter while you go for a hike with your best friend every Saturday morning? Or, maybe there are Adult Daycares that you could access and use 1-2 times a week so you can have more concentrated time to refuel your tank.
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Burnout is a part of caregiving. It isn’t easy to avoid, but if you act preemptively, you can lessen its effects. And, remember, when it all feels hard, go back to #1:
If your best friend was feeling this way and telling you this, what would you tell them? Would you think they were a terrible person? NO! You would tell them they have to take care of them self first.
It’s just like the airlines advise: “Attach your own mask FIRST.”