How many of us are caregivers to others on a daily basis (raises hand)? How many of us take care of ourselves as well as we take care of others (crickets…cough)? If you answered “yes” to the first question but “no” to the second question, then this blog post is for you!
Being a caregiver can already be pretty taxing work, add a worldwide pandemic and it’s practically unbearable. Over the last several months being a caregiver has taken on a whole new meaning, am I right? When we use the term “caregiver,” we are no longer just referring to taking care of a family member who may be suffering from a debilitating disease or condition. If this season of COVID has shown me nothing else, I now see just how much we all play the role of caregiver to some capacity.
Whether you are a man who is providing for his family or a woman who may be juggling working from home while facilitating virtual learning for her children, we are all taking care of someone. Being a caregiver is rewarding, but is also very physically, emotionally and mentally draining.
No matter how cliché it may sound, you cannot fully take care of others without taking care of yourself first. Sure, you can assist an aging parent or maybe a sibling undergoing chemotherapy in addition to tending to your own family. But eventually, if we are not getting proper rest, staying physically active, or maintaining a calm mental space, the rigor of our weekly schedules coupled with being a caregiver will take its toll on us.
The question remains: how can we combat the negative effects of being a caregiver? If you are anything like me, I’d have to admit that over the last several months COVID-19 has really put a damper on my own motivation. When I think on the grand scale of things, I realize that my family has been immensely blessed throughout this pandemic. Our small business is still doing well which allows us to provide our basic daily needs; we have food, shelter, and clothing. I have been able to take a step back from working to focus on our boys, and ensure that they adjust to virtual learning. Overall, we are super thankful that we are able to make it work for our family; especially, when so many other families have not be as fortunate. That being said, I sometimes feel guilty for complaining or even acknowledging that I may be struggling to hold it all together. I’ve had good and bad days since our country originally shut down back in March, just like you. There have been days where I’ve been optimistic and focused on the silver lining, and days when I haven’t wanted to get out of bed at all. For a short time period, I was pretty consistent about going for a run around my neighborhood a couple of times a week. At first we were soaking up all of the quality family time, and Henry and I were even somewhat thankful for a slower pace. But as time continued to pass, we realized that this virus wasn’t going away and that our lives would likely look very different for the immediate future if not forever. So the question is, how do you cope when life as you know it is unrecognizable? The medical professional in me wants to tell all of the caregivers out there that it is as simple as eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated, working out three times a week, and taking a moment for daily meditation. The truth: all of those things will definitely help, but if we as caregivers are going to make it to the other side of this (whatever that other side may look like), we cannot do it alone.
November is National Family Caregivers Month, so I thought it would be appropriate to discuss some helpful tips for caregivers to cope; especially, during this time period.
Number one: Lean on your community! We may not be able to hang out and spend time together in big groups like we used to, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t still pick up the phone and ask for help. Whether your village consists of 10 folks or 2, comradery really can make a world of difference. As a mother, I have a small group of women that I rely on to listen when I need to vent, and encourage me when my spirits are low. Their presence in my life is irreplaceable, and I doubt that I would have been able to remain sane over the last several months without them. Not only do we provide a support system for one another, but we also hold each other accountable; which leads me to my next tip…
Number two: Get your mental space in order! This tip is obviously easier said than done. However, I highly recommend figuring out what puts you in a positive place, and then focusing as much energy as possible into staying there. No one is going to have a good day every day, but we can make a conscious decision to move into a more positive direction when we notice ourselves becoming negative. My sister-in-law and I, were recently talking about how hard it can be to have a positive attitude with everything going on in the world around us. She told me that during the first few weeks of the shutdown, she wasn’t doing her usual morning routine to get ready. My sister-in-law noticed how not putting on her makeup, and actually getting dressed for the day had a negative effect on her. So although she is mainly working from home, she has decided to get up every morning and get ready for the day; just as she once did when she was still physically going into the office. This slight change not only brought back a sense of normalcy, but also elevated her mood. Now to some, doing all of that just to log onto a Zoom call may seem a bit much, but what we need to realize is that different things will work for different people. We each need to find our own “thing” that puts us in a good place mentally.
Number three: Quite time is essential! If you’ve never been the type to read a devotional passage or take a few minutes out of your day to have a quiet meditation period, start now! While I’ve never been much of a self-help book kind of girl (I know many people who are, remember: whatever works for you), I will say that there is something to be said for having some daily quiet time. As adults we often think of quiet time as necessary for our children, but will totally neglect this practice for ourselves. Not only does this time to yourself allow you to re-focus and reset your mind, but it will also help you to drown out the unnecessary noise around you. Take a break from social media and your phone, put away your other electronic devices and just sit with yourself for a moment. We all know how beneficial these social media platforms can be, but at the same time they drain us more than we probably realize. As I’ve previously stated, read an inspirational quote, say a prayer, write in a journal, light some candles, and maybe even fit in a bubble bath for yourself (if you can). If you consistently make time for these type of moments in your day or week, you will find that you have more peace within; regardless of what’s happening in your life or the world around you.
Number four: Get moving! I currently find myself struggling with incorporating workouts, or some form of physical activity consistently into my weekly routine. But in this case, I’ve learned that something is better than nothing. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable going back to the gym just yet. And with the weather changing, it’s not going to only be darker in the evenings, but also colder. However, instead of focusing on all of the obvious barriers, let’s try to think about ways that we can still engage in some cardio, even if it is right at home. There are a lot of gyms out there that are live streaming workouts virtually right now (Burn Boot Camp is one of them). There are also apps that you can download right on your phone to help you develop a routine. And if all else fails, it’s amazing how far a few jumping jacks, deep stretches, and lunges will go. We all joke about gaining those COVID-19 pounds, but at some point we have to stop wallowing and get moving if we want to preserve our health and sanity.
Overall, there’s no instant cure to get us out of this mess. It’s going to take prayer, patience (I know that it feels like it’s already been forever, but keep pushing), hard work, mental toughness, and ultimately team work. Bottom line: without each other, managing being a caregiver on top of everything else will be nearly impossible.
I’m hoping that something in this post will resonate with someone, or give even one person the encouragement that they need to keep moving forward; one day at a time.
Stay strong, give yourself grace, and remember: stick together!!!
Yours in health & wellness,