“If I’d have known I would live this long I would’ve taken better care of myself!” ~Sammy Davis, Jr.
If you are one of the 34 million care-givers in the US, you may have heard this lament from an elderly family member who relies on you for care. I call it the “if only” syndrome: If only I’d quit smoking, dealt with my stress, exercised, ate healthy foods – you can fill in the blank. I heard it from my mom countless times during the 11 years I was responsible for her care. Unfortunately for her it was too little too late. After she fell and broke her hip she just didn’t have the mental, physical or emotional resiliency to recover. She died just 7 short weeks after that fall.
And so began my mission to inform, educate and empower my caregiver peers about the importance of our own self-care.
Just what is self-care? One definition: “Self-care is the intentional time taken by an individual to nurture him or herself physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally on a daily basis”. A dear friend of mine who is currently caring for her mother who requires round-the-clock care told me this definition sounded selfish. I said “no, it’s not selfish, it’s self-responsibility.”
Right about now you may be rolling yours eyes and thinking “easy for you to say”! No, it’s not easy. But think of it this way – there is a good reason why the airlines tell us to put on our own oxygen mask before helping another.
EXERCISE – take a walk, ride a bike, do yoga or tai chi, stretch – even in small increments throughout the day this will help. Two or three 10-minute walks are just as effective as one 30-munite walk.
LAUGH often & loudly, read jokes, watch funny TV shows & movies. I took an art class once a week and I’m sure we did more laughing than painting!
FUN – do something that makes you smile – play with your pet, be silly with your grandchildren, dance, and sing, putter in the garden, go out with friends.
COMPASSION –cultivate it for yourself as well as others. Don’t “should on yourself” – you’re doing the best you can.
ACCEPT – remember the serenity prayer “Grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference”. These are wise words.
REST – as a caregiver, you can constantly feel overwhelmed and drained – both emotionally and physically. Give yourself a break - take a nap, get a good night’s sleep, sit in nature, meditate, listen to music you enjoy.
ENGAGE – Get to know the nurses and other professionals that may be caring for your family member. Greet them by name, ask about their families, & most importantly let them know how grateful you are for the work they do. I really do believe my mom got better care because the staff knew that I appreciated them.
Sue Perisi is certified as a Yoga instructor, Reiki II practitioner, Urban Zen Integrative Therapist, and holistic health coach. She has created corporate wellness programs for more than 250 companies, taught fitness classes to seniors and cancer survivors and is devoted to empowering others to create robust health and wellness through mindful practices, nutrition, and self-care. You can learn more about Sue’s background, her integrative therapy work and her signature program Yoga-Nutra RX™
Sue Perisi is a Reiki Master and Medical Intuitive and certified as a Yoga Instructor, Holistic Health Coach and Urban Zen Integrative Therapist .
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