Wednesday, December 20, 2017

How to Take Care of Yourself

“Take care of yourself!”

If you’re a caregiver, you hear that a lot. And instinctively, your brain knows that unless you do take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of your loved one. BUT. How to take care of yourself is the question. The answer will be different for everyone.

Stress woke me up this morning even though barring any more calls from the emergency room, today would be all my own. Mom’s hospital stay was over. I knew Mom was safely in a familiar rehab center and today would be completely tied up with PT, OT, and exhausted sleep in between. I had e-mailed all pertinent info to my siblings last night before I went to bed. Still, I awoke on-edge, just habit, left over from recent crisis days.

I admit I often struggle knowing how to tear myself away from to-do lists and just do something nice for myself. Usually, the only strategy I can think of is to watch a sitcom in the evening, as laughing feels therapeutic. But today, even though caring for body and spirit might have included stress-releasing exercise at the gym, I did pretty well with some other strategies. Here are my thoughts on today:

Do what quiets your spirit.

First I foggily went downstairs, made myself a whole pot of tea and watched the sun rise in pink splashes.

Then I wandered back upstairs, curled up in my arm chair with my bible to learn what I could about how Nehemiah handled obstacles to his goals. Although this strengthened my spirit, my body conked out clutching the bible. After dozing, I decided to shower and dress.

Decide to do one thing first. Then do it at a puttering pace.

I felt overwhelmed by Christmas-prep tasks I’m now way behind on after spending days tending to Mom’s health crisis and her Christmas-prep tasks. As inept as I can be prioritizing under stress, I realized I felt even more overwhelmed by chaotic scenes in my bathroom, office, and car than about Christmas. So, although this may not rank as highest priority, I cleaned my bathroom. My goal was not to make everything sparkle; rather it was to clear chaos. On my days helping Mom, I came home so exhausted, I had not put things away. Today I methodically put away or designated for laundry four pairs of pants hanging from a hook, five sweaters that were on one doorknob, a vest from another doorknob, two tops and three pairs of socks tossed on a little table. After wiping down some surfaces, I looked around and felt calm, not stressed. Okay. Enough. I patted myself on the back and decided tidying my office and car and finishing Christmas prep could wait.

As I slowly tidied the bathroom, I decided I had enough energy to venture out to pick up my prescription, pop in to the library, and gas up the car. So I did those errands quite leisurely, and it felt nice. When I came home, I made a healthy dinner: salad, butternut squash, green beans, and salmon. Today was a rare, simple, slow day.

Do at least one nurturing thing for yourself.

Today I stopped for a Starbucks mocha, which is a big treat for me. I read a magazine there for only about 15 minutes, but this little break put a smile on my face. I parked far away so that I could walk in sunshine, which washed my skin with warmth. At the library I found a short, light novel to read in the evening to relax—after laughing at a sitcom, of course.

Today healed because self-care—not any activity—was the goal, and pacing was leisurely. My nurturing activities had to be low-key because I did not even have enough energy to make a massage appointment, let alone drive to a spa. It was a great day.

Another aspect of self-care—figuring out which caregiving tasks I might delegate—totally flummoxes me. I have to work on that skill. Yet another aspect—processing intense emotions felt during a parent’s health crisis—remains. And for me, that means journaling and talking with friends. I’ll get to that.

Your comments and suggestions are welcome. What refreshes you?