Be mindful of all that you are doing. Seek rest and comfort in others. This kind of respite is vital. So take a moment or, if possible, even a day to rest and refuel. It is essential in long-term caregiving. Ask others to help you accomplish this. Let someone else do the heavy lifting for a while.Here are three essential things I learned in my own experience of caregiving.
BE PRESENT IN THE PRESENT
Often, I felt the most drained when I got locked into a loop of constant worry about an uncertain future. Contemplating the myriad of “what if” scenarios that could come to pass was an exhausting way to navigate an already exhausting life. A friend and mentor gave me a valuable piece of advice – “to try to stay connected to the exact moment you are in, not one second before, not one second afterwards.” For me that meant stopping the sped-up voices of my fears and choosing to take inventory of what was right in front of me. I would literally make myself stop and notice the sky; listen to leaves blowing in the wind; or feel the exhale of my own breath. When I did this, I noticed the things in my surroundings that my fear had robbed me of seeing. I could more easily reciprocate my husband’s smile; I could actually taste the food I was eating; I could even feel the love of all the people who were supporting us near and far. Being present helped me survive.
STEP AWAY AND REPLENISH
We all know the oxygen mask instructions in case there is a sudden change in cabin pressure on an airplane. Getting a diagnosis can feel like a sudden change in pressure. To see yourself through it and to help the ones you love, you have to put your oxygen mask on first. When I didn’t take care of myself, I lived close to collapse. I was irritable, resentful, exhausted and scared. So take breaks, replenish and refuel so that you can go the distance with grace. Try to do at least ONE nice thing for yourself today. If time permits, see a movie; buy a frivolous magazine; enjoy a comforting lunch; walk in the fresh air; have a leisurely conversation with a friend; watch a TV show. Do anything that gives you a moment’s reprieve.
CARING TAKES COURAGE
I encourage you to be mindful and honor the part of you that is choosing to be of service to another human being. Remember that being someone else’s support, especially when they are ill, is one of most honoring ways we can witness each other’s humanity. So take stock in knowing that you are showing up in a brave and significant way. Bravo to you!