I hope you and your family are well. I am thinking of you and sending my positive thoughts and prayers. We are missing everyone, and hope to bridge the distance through this electronic connection.
While caregiving can be a labor of love, it can also be extremely challenging. Often, caregivers are so selfless that they neglect to take care of themselves. On a normal year, for example, caregivers may experience anxiety, depression, loneliness, sleeplessness, and self-neglect. However, during a year like this, with an unprecedented pandemic, the emotional and physical issues may be heightened. These symptoms can ultimately lead to stress, burn-out and may impact the health of a caregiver.
During the past few weeks, I am aware of increasing family caregiver stress. So, this Touch Points is dedicated to all the loving caregivers who may feel depleted. In addition, the idea of practicing self-care is also essential for healthcare professionals and parents. It is important to recognize the emotional toll and find ways to refill your tank. Today, I will suggest ways to decrease stress and stay stronger. Before we jump in, however, I would like you to honestly ask yourself, “I am taking care of myself physically, mentally and spiritually every day?” If the answer is no, then it’s time to make your health a priority and problem solve.
“Think of the emergency instructions you get on an airplane- you have to put on your own oxygen mask before you can help others with theirs. No matter how much you love your partner, you can’t take good care of him or her if you don’t first take good care of yourself.” (Excerpt from the book, My Two Elaines by Former Governor Martin Schreiber)
Ways to be a Healthier Caregiver:
- You are What You Eat… and Drink!– Let’s start with the basics. Sometimes we need a gentle reminder that eating well-balanced meals and drinking enough water daily is vital. Please also remember to eat on a regular schedule. Did you know that we need to drink 6-8 glasses of water each day? That is a lot! Personally, I have to work at drinking enough, so here are a few of my tips! Lately, I have been buying flavored sparkling water at the grocery store, or infusing water at home with fruit or herbs. Besides being delicious, I feel quite extravagant! In addition, all this deliciousness has no calories and no sodium- which is terrific! So drink up my friends! Click here for a variety of refreshing combinations: https://i.pinimg.com/736x/9f/f7/36/9ff736b9e4f99ad7bbea90cd818f846b.jpg
- Get Outdoors- Generally, this time of year, the weather has been lovely! Since we live in Wisconsin, it won’t be like this forever! Fresh air renews the body and the spirit. Even if it is for a brief time, find a way to get outside. In addition, sun on your skin may benefit your immune system, and can stimulate your brain and senses. So, what are you waiting for?…Open that door and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine!
- When is the Last Time You Saw the Doctor?- Do not overlook your own health. Please make regular appointments with your physician. If you are not able to go into an office because of Covid-19, ask your doctor for a telehealth visit via the computer, or speak to him/her on the phone. Please do not feel uncomfortable asking for this accommodation, it is a normal thing to do. If the doctor isn’t able to accommodate, he/she will let you know. Whatever you do, do not ignore or put off any concerning symptoms. Physical self-care is important.
- Exercise– I know you are busy helping your loved one, but find a way to move your body. If your loved one can walk outside with you, then get into a routine together. Or, if you have help, walk by yourself or on a treadmill. No excuses for those of you living in an apartment or condo… try taking the stairs or walking the halls. In addition, simple stretching, chair exercises, or yoga are wonderful. It is no big secret that exercise releases stress and boosts your mood. Get moving! Of course, if you have any health conditions, please check with your doctor first.
- Don’t Ignore Your Emotions – Pay attention to your feelings. Vent to trusted family or friends. Sometimes, however, it is easier to speak to a trained professional counselor. He/she will listen to you and help you find answers to your problems, without judgment. Discussing feelings can decrease stress, and help clarify an issue. Teletherapy is also widely available during Covid-19.
- Try a Brain Health Exercise to Identify How You Are Feeling- “Writing it out” is another way to get in touch with how you are feeling. Sometimes it feels safer than saying it out loud. Find a quiet space, and close your eyes. Ask yourself, what words describe how you are feeling? Write them down. Honor any feelings; whatever comes up is valid. (You still might want to phone a friend, but this is a great start!)
- Let Some Things Go– Sometimes, learning to let go can be one of the biggest gifts you give yourself. You don’t have to be a perfect caregiver. Try to pick your battles. For example, if you are at home and your loved one’s shirt is inside out, then let it go. Or, perhaps the towels your loved one folded aren’t just the way you like them. Before you react, or say anything, think to yourself, “Does it really matter?” If it isn’t hurting your loved one or anyone else, then maybe letting it go will avoid added stress.
- Ask for Help When You Need it/Take Time for Yourself– I put these ideas together, because often they are related. Please give yourself permission to pause and reset, because everyone needs a break from caregiving. What makes you happy? Read, meditate, watch a movie, take a bath, or just find a quiet moment to relax. If you are unable to find the time, consider coordinating help from family, or hiring a caregiving agency. The needed break will nourish your soul, and lower your stress level. My suggestion… Create a list of ways you may need help. That way, when you speak to family or an agency you are prepared.
- Check Out The Jewish Museum Milwaukee’s “Museum Moment”– Florence Eiseman created designs that clothed generations of children worldwide. Carrie Fisher wore Florence Eiseman, and so did the Kennedy Children. Most recently President Obama presented specially crafted Florence Eiseman outfits as baby gifts during his presidency. This major design business started as a way for an overwhelmed new mom to handle a baby who wouldn’t stop crying. Learn about the history of Florence Eiseman and how the artistic outlet of sewing and design helped a young mother take better care of her family. After you watch, think about how creativity helps bolster caregivers. Here is the link: https://youtu.be/r49LVWbgE5o
“Caregivers are super heroes in comfortable clothes.” (-Visiting the Gray Planet)
Thank you, caregivers, for all you do! Please take care of yourselves for you are precious to us and to your loved one. If you have a question or want to talk, I am here for you and very happy to help. Please email me at DRubin-Winkelman@ovation.org
Thinking of you and sending all my positive energy and love,