Finding Balance While Caregiving
In One Caregiver’s Journey, I routinely freely advise that caregiving is a tough job in the best of times and situations. Sometimes it is difficult to maintain a positive attitude given the many challenges associated with being a caregiver. Whether you are a caregiver or not, living through a pandemic has made the need for positivity and balance in our lives more of a priority.
If you are providing care to a loved one in your home during the pandemic while trying to balance family life, the stress can become overwhelming. If your loved one lives independently and the pandemic has kept you apart, that can be equally overwhelming. Balance is a just one way of saying it is time to take inventory of our emotional, mental, and physical health. In my book during my caregiving days, I found balance with regular (daily) workout routines, meditation or just by spending time in the safe haven of my kitchen. I still maintain my daily workout and meditation routine to stay grounded.
In these Covid-19 days, we’re taking care of our physical health by wearing a mask, maintaining appropriate distance and cleaning everything we touch or even don’t touch. Maybe balance, positivity and attitude can be interchanged with the word joy and the question posed as how can caregivers find joy in these difficult times? Doctors also maintain that a positive attitude can be a contributor to a longer lifespan. Here are some ways for caregivers to remain positive and find balance and joy when the days and people around us could turn your world upside down.
Stay connected. There are a multitude of ways to stay connected today. Telephone, social media, video chat or just a regular check-in can not only bring a caregiver peace of mind and joy, but it can also bring joy to others. Truly, just seeing a smile or hearing a laugh will be enough to adjust your attitude. Because we have not been able to have family or neighborhood gatherings it is important to make it a priority to stay connected to the people who are important in your life. Caregivers, family, and friends all gain the feelings that come with peace of mind by staying connected.
Reframe your situation. Caregivers can fall into the trap of feeling like they are prisoners and isolated in their own home. There were times I sure did in my 9 ½ years of caregiving to my mother. Primarily because I was the sole caregiver with little help. Maybe the pandemic is an opportunity to spend some time focusing on yourself and your home. Is there a room that you would like to re-arrange or remodel? Do you have closets or papers that need to be organized? Do you have “stuff” that can be donated or given to a charity for someone else to use and enjoy? People feel a sense of accomplishment and have a more positive outlook if they complete just one task a day however large or small. Reframing your situation is a way to balance your negative impulses with something positive.
Maintain a tidy environment. In this same vein as reframing, getting rid of clutter leads to an uncluttered mind. There is plenty of uncertainty that occurs daily for caregivers. There is so much that is unknown and uncertainty in the world today that balance can be achieved through something as simple as an uncluttered environment. As silly as it sounds caregivers can breathe easier when there is a bit more space and less clutter. Make your bed every day and do the dishes. My grandmother used to say if the dishes are done and a bed is made the house will look tidy….take grandma’s advice.
Stay in your normal routine. Sticking to a normal routine for your loved one is the general caregiving advice but sometimes difficult for a caregiver. Everyday is a new day that can bring surprises that throw your routine to the curb. The pandemic has resulted in so many people discarding a normal routine by staying in pajamas or not or showering and eating to the point of gaining the “Covid19 – 19 pounds.” Caregivers cannot afford to discard a normal routine for themselves or their loved ones. The people to whom you are providing care depend on a normal routine as they already live in a fragile world. Caregivers need to get up and face each day with the same grit – lounging in your pajamas is not an option when your loved one needs help with their daily activities.
Limit how much news you watch and read. Face it, today’s news can be downright depressing or can cause an angry reaction. Don’t let the pandemic, coronavirus, political or other news stress you out. Limit when and what news you watch. The basic fact of the matter is that there is nothing we can do to change what is happening across the world, our country, or our community. Take it in and let it go.
Focus on the small things that bring happiness and gratitude each day. In One Caregiver’s Journey I stress that at the end of each day there is something you remember about the day that can make you smile. Did you accomplish getting through that pile of papers in the office while your loved one napped? Did your loved one make a comment that made you laugh or smile? Did you have a call from someone you haven’t seen or visited with in a while? The pandemic has taught me to be grateful for just about everything – gratitude is the new attitude. My book also advises that it helps to maintain a journal. Caregivers will appreciate the future opportunity to reflect on those days when it felt as though nothing was going right and you were in a corner.
In addition to these things spending time outdoors can lift your spirits, bring a positive smile to your face, and balance your outlook. Often caregivers can’t go for a stroll or sit by the lake. But you can just step outdoors, breathe in fresh air, close your eyes and be still in the moment. A few minutes outdoors can do wonders for your caregiving experience and for your outlook on life in general. Mother nature is full of many wonders that bring joy in any season. Mother nature and balance are one in the same.
There are many hardships, failures and daily stresses associated with the pandemic. Caregiving is a challenge and stressful without the addition of the current situation we are facing. It is important and probably imperative to balance, strive to achieve a positive attitude and to know success is still within reach.