November is National Family Caregivers Month. If you’re a caregiver, chances are you’re tired and underappreciated. But muster some enthusiasm to celebrate your amazing self—all year round. You’re literally a life-saver. Here’s to you!
- Stop fighting. From the physician with the world’s worst bedside manner to the store clerk who glares, sometimes others can exhibit less than ideal reactions to your situation. Offer some grace to the insensitive folks in your life. It’s unlikely they’re out to get you—practicing patience with them can go a long way. So can kicking passiveness to the curb—speak kindly but speak up about what you want. Anger takes so much energy. And energy’s your most precious commodity.
- Self-care on steroids. Hospitals provide little rooms for doctors to catch some z’s when they’re not working.You are the primary practitioner of your world. Send yourself to your room. Sleep, soak in a bath, practice belly breathing, take a walk, grab dinner with a friend, read a good book—or all of the above. In one day. When so much seems out of your control, it’s tempting to want to seize control wherever you can, cramming “down time” with chores, errands, or catching up on bills. Don’t make to-do’s the default mode. Make rest and play and whatever’s good for your soul the default instead.
- Outsource. Research. Respite. Repeat. Forego cable TV if you must and make respite a priority—from a qualified sitter to someone who can drive to therapy sessions. Vet closely, but not with impossible standards. It doesn’t have to be Florence Nightingale fillng in for you every time.
- Lean on friends and family members. Really. They want to help. Let them. Have honest conversations about what folks are and are not comfortable with. Your people may not be okay with changing a special needs teenager’s diaper, but they might be delighted to tote your younger kiddo to soccer practice or pick up the dry cleaning while they’re out. You have life-lines—grab hold.
- Laugh your face off. Find the funny—it’s there somewhere. Laughter’s contagious. Laugh because it’s medicine. Laugh to lighten your load. Laugh so you don’t cry.
Note: I do a pretty awesome job of caring for 14-year-old Sadie. Yep, she wears diapers. When Sadie’s at school or asleep, I write—one of my ways of pursuing radical self-care.