Take Care of Yourself, Caregiver

Trust me, I know how it is. My life revolves around taking care of everyone but myself. I am a single mom with two kids – an 11 year old actress and a 6 year old athlete. My keep-the-family-together mother just passed away a few weeks ago and my father has spinal muscular atrophy, dementia, and recently had a stroke that left him unable to weight bear. I’ve also adopted my parents’ blind dog.

I am desperately trying to keep track of all of the rehearsals, practices, and games, while still being present for whenever my father needs me. On one occasion, I went upstairs to put my pajamas on at 9/9:30 and realized I had never changed out of my pajamas from the night before! Or all too often, it gets to dinner time and I realize I forgot to feed myself all day!  

But we’ve all heard it time and time again, you have to put on your own oxygen mask first. Yeah, yeah, blah blah. But it’s true, as Lisa Nichols put it in her book Abundance Now I just read “you have to pour into yourself before you can pour into others.” I picture someone with a pitcher and people around with glasses. If the guy didn’t pour the juice into his pitcher first, there would nothing to pour into the glasses.

But it’s hard to make sure we take care of ourselves sometimes, so here are a few little tips I’ve picked up along the way:

  1. Get adequate sleep.
    sleepWaaaaaaaaaay easier said than done. (I know not enough A’s in that way.) But you have to figure out a schedule. What time do the kids fall asleep? What time does the baby wake up? What time does your father, mother, or in-law wake up? How many times are you going to get interrupted? You gotta just squeeze it in. Make sleep a priority.

    Also, you can create a transition time for your body. When it’s time to go to sleep, do something to allow your body to calm down before you go to sleep so you can be restful. I remember I even used to see it in my son – He would go from 0 to 60 back to 0 and when he’d finally crash for that nap, his body would still be in active mode and he would twitch or move and wake himself right back up. So read or meditate. Do something to allow your body to transition to restfulness.
  2. Stay Hydrated.

    So I really try to simply keep a water bottle with me at all times. (I particularly love this one.) So when I’m thirsty, I don’t have to try to find something to drink, it’s just right there. But I also like to fill it with half ice and half water at night so that when I wake up I don’t even have to tip toe downstairs to start my day off with some nice cold water.
  3. Eat Your 5-7 Servings!
    It can be really hard to get enough fruits and veggies for both adults and children. One way I make sure that I get at least a decent amount is by starting the day with a green smoothie or putting a bowl of fruit with whatever I’m having.
    I find that to be a great solution to a lot of things. Have trouble getting it done during the day? Do it in the morning! Get it done before the chaos of the day takes over.

    Also, keep fruits you like to snack on available. I find if I have a bowl of apples already washed out on the table, they get eaten. Frozen vegetables or anything precut works too if you constantly find yourself in a time crunch.
  4. Exercise There are so many reasons to exercise. Energy. Strength. Endorphins. Brain Health. Etc etc etc! When I exercise I always end up feeling like I accomplished something. It makes me feel good.And when I feel like I can’t take the time for myself, I remember the practical reasons for exercising. (But you should feel like you can take time just for you!) If I am stronger, I can lift my dad easier. If I increase my cardiovascular health, I can run after the kids easier or help them practice soccer without passing out at the park.Sometimes, I turn everyday activities into exercises. I do squats while I’m on the phone or do a plank series while waiting for the water to warm up. I’ve often thought about buying one of those bike-desks and trying to sneak in some exercise while doing some work.But really, who couldn’t use the extra energy in general?
  5. Connect with People You need to spend some time with people who don’t rely on you entirely for their well-being.If you are able to hire a babysitter, caregiver, or nurse…DO IT! You wouldn’t imagine how good it feels to talk to someone you don’t feel responsible for.Or go to a support group. Having people who understand what you are going through and to whom you are completely safe to talk.

    Depending on your situation, you might not be able to just meet someone for lunch. I get it. I was in that boat. My dad has been known to call the police if I take too much time picking the kids up from school. At least give someone a call. Maybe you could even have someone pop in for a little. Sure, they may hear the baby crying or your parent acting out, but hey, maybe they’ll get why you’ve been MIA and why you need these brief interruptions.

  6. Take time for yourself.
    Impossible, right?  Can you find time to pursue a hobby or read a book? I couldn’t either. But i realized I could carve out 5 minutes here and there…or maybe 3. Use these 3-5 minutes to do something for yourself. Even if you get interrupted. I find that interruptions aren’t so bad if you expect them. So if you know you’ll only have 5 minutes to write when you get pulled away, it’s not so frustrating.
  7. Be kind to yourself! This is probably the most important tip I have for you.If you are anything like me, you want to do everything for everyone all the time. I had this ridiculous idea that it’s not enough to take care of my dad and to be a single mom raising two kids. I also had to try to be the perfect vegan, the perfect zero waster, the perfect minimalist, and so on and so on.  I got myself into such a state that I pretty much ended up paralyzed and totally at a loss. We ended up throwing it all away and getting pseudo-fast food more often than not.
    So sometimes you just have to let the perfectionism go and be easy on yourself. If you need to get precut, bagged fruit to throw in your purse for a snack or to be able to throw the kids’ lunches together with the 0.2 seconds you have available in the morning. Do it. If you have to tape a list of dinner options on the wall so that you don’t have to think what to make at the end of the day. Do it. Maybe your inner perfectionist can’t deal with the plastic or the paper on the wall, but you have to let it go. Tell yourself you are doing what you have to do to make a good life for you and your family. And it’s not forever. Things will come together and you can pick your battles as you have time.


Just be kind and love yourself!


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