On an airplane, an oxygen mask descends in front of you. What do you do? As we all know, the first rule is to put on your own oxygen mask before you assist anyone else. Only when we first help ourselves can we effectively help others. Caring for yourself is one of the most important—and one of the most often forgotten—things you can do as a caregiver. When your needs are taken care of, the person you care for will benefit, too.
A few weeks ago I had the honor of presenting at a “caring for the caregiver” conference. A subject that hits a sore note for many caregivers. Finding time for ourselves is often a fleeting thought while reality hits in. How can we take time for ourselves when our kids, our husbands, our extended family, our jobs and the house all need our immediate attention and care? Guilt is what prevents us for taking a much needed break or doing something special for ourselves. Guilt that is seen as us being selfish or self centered if we go to the gym, get our nails done or take an art class. Yet it is essential to relieve stress, keep healthy and be able to keep up with life demands.
I have found that many caregivers wait for permission before taking care of themselves. Sometimes at the recommendation of a doctor as a way to decrease stress or illness. Or waiting to give themselves permission saying when the kids all go to school full time I will take a year off and concentrate on myself, or when things settle down at school, or when the kids get older. Waiting for the right time to take time for yourself often results in there never really being a right time. We only find another life challenge or excuse that prevents us from doing so. Is it guilt? Is it fear? Is it how our mothers taught us to be?
I love a new show on HBO called the Big C which is the story of a woman who find out she has stage 4 melanoma cancer. She opts to not do treatment and begins to live out loud, takes chances and has a presence that says it is all about me. Yet she is really about finding balance for herself and those she loves. What I find from watching this show is I want to be her. I want to live today, take chances and do things that make me happy and healthy. Why wait till I get permission to live by a doctor telling me live but it will be a short life. This show makes me want to be a better person to myself so that I can be a better person to those who are in my life and depend on me.
I am learning that if I am to be so much too so many I have to take time to live for me. So that being said I have been promising myself that I would take an art class. I have always been creative and enjoyed drawing and painting but only dabbling. I have been too afraid to take a chance on myself and flop. Or maybe feeling guilty about spending money and time on me and something that only I will get pleasure from. I took the dive 3 weeks ago and took a 4 hour art class. It has been one of the best investments in myself to date. Since then I have gotten a new zest for life and find myself seeing a talented artist who is living out loud through paint. My daughter even is amazed at how I can take paint and in an afternoon create beautiful works of art.
One of the activities I and the conference attendees did was to create a bucket list. Not one that you will do when you find out you have only a few months to live. Rather a bucket list to live out loud and begin to take care of yourself today. We each wrote down 12 things we would like to achieve for 2011. Keeping in mind that each month we would be working on one of the items. Some of the items that were shared were working on a special needs trust, paying off credit card bills, taking classes, make a monthly date night with spouse/significant other, getting more insurance, exercise more, drink more water, go on vacation with and without children… Some were a way to decrease the day to day stress that would lead to being more healthy and others were about doing something that just made them feel good. Taking an art class was one of the items on my bucket list. One that I am thrilled to say I have completed and continue to enjoy.
So for the 2011 year I give you permission take time for yourself. I challenge you to make a bucket list that you will commit to doing this year. If you feel like living out loud let us know what your journey will look like. I am looking forward to this year with a renewed energy for life, taking time for myself so that I can be here for those who need and love me. How about you?
Care Givers Bill of Rights – By: Julie Buick
A Care Giver has the right…