Most of us are caring for someone, better than we care for ourselves. In my work with seniors, I am always telling their stressed, busy loved ones to make time for yourself, take care of yourself, or you won’t be able to take care of anyone else! I practically roll my eyes along with them, because I know how hard it is to practice self-care, even when we are not a caregiver. We are all busy with a million things on our to do lists. To add one more thing seems overwhelming and impossible.
Putting ourselves first is more than just a luxury we rarely make time for. When we don’t prioritize ourselves, it starts to take a toll. The following are the some of the signs to be aware of. Do you get frequent colds and other illnesses? Do you find you are having a hard time focusing or remembering things? Have you lost interest in things you used to like to do? Are you anxious and/or unable to get a good night’s sleep? Do you find yourself losing your temper or crying easily? These are all warnings that you need to take a bit of break and spend some time caring for yourself.
I have been a caregiver in my personal life, but I also own and work at my business Serving our Seniors, where my staff and I are all busy helping seniors with dementia and other challenges of aging, to stay independent at home. So I asked myself, do I practice what I preach? I love what I do for work and I used to spend a lot of time on me, but as my business thrived, and so many people needed me, I stopped all those important practices. I stopped exercising, started burning the candle at both ends, and rarely took time for myself. As a result, I gained 45 lbs. and had forgotten how to relax and have fun!
So, before I utter another do what I say, not what I do statement, I will take my own advice. I tell it to the tired man who’s caring for his wife with dementia, or the daughter trying to support both her aging parents alone because her siblings all live out of state, or a friend who has a child with special needs. But I don’t say it to myself!
For the next month, I will do what “they” say but in a way that I will enjoy! Self-care can be many different things, and the surest way to succeed is to do things we look forward to and want to do, not have to do! We are already stressed; this is meant to make us happy and healthy instead!
- We all know exercise is the number one way to combat stress, feel good, and create more energy! I hate the gym, but I love nature and taking a long walk is something that I will do! Even in Kennebunk, Maine in February! It is often cold, dark, and uncomfortable outside, but if I let the weather deter me, I wouldn’t go outside until June.
- Sleep 7-8 hours “they” say, but sometimes sleep doesn’t come when our minds are racing with so much information, so many worries, and a to do list a mile long. Or worse, we find ourselves wide awake in the middle of the night. I used to love to read, a novel, something to take me away to someone else’s story, to live in another’s world that has nothing to do with mine. I actually find it hard to stay awake when I read, so if you fall asleep too, all the better!
- Another self-care habit that is so popular and is also reported to help us sleep better, focus, de-stress and put things in perspective, is meditation! There are great aps online and I plan to spend 10 minutes a day. Everyone has 10 minutes. Deepak Chopra says, meditate for a half hour and if you can’t find a half hour in your day, meditate for an hour!
- More vegetables! My husband and I are not vegetarians, but we made zucchini ravioli last night and it was delicious. So maybe we will incorporate one vegetarian dinner a week! It is so fun to try a new recipe!
- Journaling is something I used to love to do! I would pour a cup of tea, first thing in the morning when the rest of the world is still asleep and write my thoughts. Sometimes I would write about how grateful I was, or other times, I was full of complaints, or worried or scared or at a loss. As I would write, even just a stream of consciousness, I would find solutions to problems, remember how much I had going right, or work through emotions. It is a way to process our days and our lives.
My birthday is one month from tomorrow! So let’s see how these self-care practices affect me in one month, on March 11th. I will be the guinea pig and you can follow me here and on Instagram and Facebook and see what happens.