Flight attendants instruct you to put on your oxygen mask first before you put on your child’s mask. Why? So you will be alive and able to care for your child. The same goes for being a caregiver. If you don’t take care of yourself, then everything else crumbles. As a caregiver for my dad who had bone cancer, this was the hardest lesson to learn. I was always in a hurry. Always overloaded with my own work and what I needed to do for my parents and stressed out to the max. The result? I gained nearly 20 pounds because I ate whatever was quick—junk. I stopped doing my morning walk with my friend because that was an hour I thought I didn’t have any more. I was impatient with my 90 year-old parents and would bark at them and then feel horribly guilty for being such a jerk. I was in such a hurry that I’d leave phones, glasses and keys behind: I was always dropping things because I was trying to carry too many supplies to my parents’ house.
The best advice I could give is slow down. If you have no time, go even slower. Take deep breaths. Take ten of them, counting in and out, before you go into the house. Make time to see your friends. It just might be a half hour instead of an hour. Do not give up on exercise. It will save you and get those happy endorphins going. Take the time to eat right. Make a list of what brings you joy.
As a hospice social worker, Katie spends most of her days with dying people and their families. This can often be very stressful. Katie has Friday’s off. She usually goes for a long hike with her dog and takes the time to truly rest. But what makes her most happy is the time she spends with a friend’s little boy. Henry comes for 3 hours every Friday. Katie has watched him learn to crawl, walk and say his first words. Henry calls her Cake. He now runs to hug her. The joy Katie gets from her time with Henry powers her through the next week.