“Have a happy and healthy New Year!”
These sentiments are often freely shared as we greet one another in the New Year. We understand that the wishes are sincere, yet at the same time, many of us are experiencing the challenges of caring for a loved one who’s health is declining. I am in this boat with you, and need reminders that we caregivers need to look out for our own health and wellbeing, in addition to the needs of our loved one. The beginning of the New Year is a good time to make a resolution to do just that.
But when this topic comes up in Caregiver Support Groups, members often share that while this is a wonderful idea, it is just not practical—because there is no time!
Here are some ideas to practically carve out a little bit of time each day to reduce your level of stress.
(Brief scientific fact: when too much stress builds up in our bodies it creates cortisol—the hormone for the fight or flight response. By practicing self-care—even a little each day—we can reduce the cortisol level a little each day. It is proven to help our bodies feel better.) We can do this!
1. Try a brief meditation or mindfulness practice.
This can be a simple as being present and in the moment while you are eating your lunch. Try putting away social media and noticing the taste of the food, or sights and sounds around you. Or, a few moments of meditation can be facilitated through the app Insight Timer, which many caregivers find helpful.
2. Go outside.
Especially if the sun is shining. Maybe take a brief walk or allow a few moments to feel the warmth of the sun on your face. Is there a breeze? Soak it in and take a few deep breaths.
3. Brew a cup of tea or a cup of coffee.
Making a cup of tea is a deeply cherished practice in many cultures around the world. Settle into the practice and focus on each step. Watch the steam rise from the cup and feel the heat of the cup against your hand. If you have time, sip your warm drink without distraction.
4. Focus on one thing at a time.
Whoever said that multitasking is a good idea needs to read the new scientific evidence! Focusing on one thing at a time is not only more productive, but it lowers anxiety and stress levels.
5. Leave your phone behind.
Do you really need to take your phone with you on a walk, or while you are dining with others, or while you are getting ready to go to sleep? When you put your phone down and look up, it offers moments to interact with what is happening around you, or maybe experience some moments to quiet your mind.
I hope these easy and proven ideas will inspire you take a few well deserved moments for yourself each and every day.
Have other ideas or advice for making time for self-care? Let us know in the comments!
By Sharon O’Connor
With more than 20 years of experience in the healthcare field and a primary focus on senior care, Sharon expertly leads Iona’s compassionate Wellness & Arts Center team. Prior to joining Iona’s staff in 2010, Sharon served as an associate executive director in the assisted living arena. Under her leadership, the Wellness & Arts Center has earned a Dementia Program of Distinction Award from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. She also facilitates support groups for older adults and their family members. Sharon holds a BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University.