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  • Writer's pictureCynthia Stotlar-Hedberg

Self-Care isn't Selfish

I’ve been told by innumerable people that one of my gifts, perhaps my main gift is being a caregiver. I smile and thank them. But there is a part of my brain that mumbles: “it is a blessing and a curse.” One friend recently verbalized something to that effect when she said”” I’m guessing you were wishing you had other gifts or that you weren’t called to use this one so often, huh?” To which I said: “True that!”

Fellow caregivers, you understand when I say caregiving is a wear out. It is draining, mentally, physically and emotionally. You flat out get tired of endless doctor appointments, driving people all over creation, sitting in various offices and hospitals, listening to machines, worrying over test results, realizing you now know a lot of medical lingo you never thought you would, doing tons of first aid and minor medical procedures and learning to cook for special dietary needs. You get tired of fetching this and that and the endless cleaning. You spend hours on hold trying to figure out bills and argue about insurance payments terrified that if you don’t get this right, you are doomed. If I’d wanted to be a nurse, a maid, a chef or an insurance adjustor, I’ve have gone to school for that. I didn’t; but now I feel like I am so many things I never wanted to be all except for who I was.

Here are a few quotes I

hold onto:

“Self-care is never a selfish act - it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.” ― Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

"Self-care is NOT selfish. You can not serve from an empty vessel."" Elenore Brown

"Put your oxygen mask on first. Then help those around you." Stewardesses

One of the most challenging things about being a caregiver is taking time to care for yourself. Finding time to get your own doctor appointments worked into the schedule. Taking time to have lunch with one of your friends. Going to the social groups you have always enjoyed. Staying connected to those you love.

But here’s the thing, you must make things happen that you want. The things you NEED to keep you sane, focused and happy. What happens when you don’t? Your cup runs dry. Your bucket is empty. Your energy reserves are gone. And then when you go to pour energy into the person you are supposed to be caring for there is nothing there but irritation, anxiety and anger. Not a good mix, not a healthy situation for either of you.

So how do you make it happen? How do you re-charge yourself? How do you stay sane? Honestly, it is going to be different for each one of you out there because your “happy and sane” needs something different and your buckets are different sizes.

Here are some ideas. You will like some and hate others. Pick the ones that resonate with you.

Make Your Doctor Appointments a Priority

Put them on a Schedule - your annual, your mammogram, your colonoscopy, your prostate exam, your dental exam. Pick a day of the week when your patient is not doing chemo normally and et them set. You may have to take your patient with you, but lord knows you have sat through theirs. It’ll be OK. If they must go with you. If you find a place to park your patient like a church function or have a friend who can come sit with them, that’s might be a better option. If he/she can be by themselves for a bit, then that’s great.

Make Time for Friends, Fun and Laughter

We laugh a lot more when we are with people than when we are by ourselves or even when we are watching comedies. So being around friends is a good way to boost your endorphins. To make it easier for you, try a pot luck dinner, or meet somewhere for coffee, or do a dessert pot luck, have people over for a game night or a movie night. These don’t take so much effort or clean up and get people talking and enjoying one another.

Use an App to “See” Each Other

If you can’t get to where your relatives are, try facetime or Skype, or TalkLife. There are more and more of these popping up as we live further apart from those we love. It’s not like being there but it is better than texting, Facebook, Instagram or email.

Work to Add Fun into your Day or at Least Week

We try to look for fun things to do or go see. Topeka Kansas is a small town. But we have the Oz Museum not far away, the Evil Knievel Museum and NOTO, an art gallery area of town, we have a national guard aircraft museum, the Eisenhower Museum down the road a bit and the World-Famous Topeka Zoo, etc. etc. etc. I bet your town has some fun spots you haven’t see as well. Plus, we do puzzles and treat ourselves to a movie at home at last once a week complete with popcorn.

Get Some Time Away from One Another

I do lunch with several friends and get his done before I go. I plan for a couple of his friends to take him places for lunch or on outings. He does a book club once a month with friends. It helps to have interests and time apart.

Indulge (if You Can Afford It)

We get a massage every month. We are blessed to be able to afford it. If you can’t, try finding a school for masseuses and get a low cost one as they learn. Or give each other one. Or have the girl friends over for a spa day.

Get Out of Town (if you can afford it)

Periodically, “blowing this pop stand” is a great way to recharge your batteries. Whether you are a beach or mountain cabin person is up to you, but a 3-day get away can be just what you need to recharge. I did a very low-cost art retreat last month that included juicing, healthy eating, yoga and spirituality plus it was close enough I could pop home if needed, it was super helpful to my overall mental and physical well-being.

Just remember to be nice to you!

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