The numerous roles that we play at work or at home are often overwhelming. And, what happens when your precious life balance is upended by caregiving responsibilities for a loved one, be it a young child, an aging parent, or someone else with special needs?
While you might feel exhausted, know that you can balance life and caregiving responsibilities with good self-care, a proper mindset, and good organization.
Remember the oxygen-mask statement that airlines make at the time of take-off -- place your mask on before helping others? The same concept applies here when working with young children, the elderly, or individuals with special needs.
Focus first on your mental, emotional, and physical needs. Essentially, you must take the time to build your reserves. You might simply start off with just 10-15 minutes a day. Some ideas:
- List people you can call on for assistance. Do you have relatives or friends who can help? Who are the professionals that should be consulted? Are there church groups or a social service agency in the area that can provide you with some respite assistance?
- If applicable to you, enlist the support of your workplace. For example, explore your organization’s policies for flex-time, dependent care, or family leave. For moral support, identify others who are going through or have gone through a similar situation.
- Get adequate sleep or at least take well-deserved naps.
- Meditate. Take time to calm and center yourself. This does not require you to sit for long periods of time in lotus position. Just pause for a couple of minutes in your car or just outside your door. Take a few slow deep breaths. Then go and assist the person who needs you. Your situation may not have changed, but you will feel a bit more energized and calm.
- Eat well and get exercise. Choose nourishing foods and opt for simple forms of exercise that your schedule allows.
- Keep a positive outlook. Taking good care of yourself first will help you do this.
- Accept offers for help. You don’t have to go it alone.
- In some cases this is a temporary situation, in other cases, it is long-term. If you can’t change your circumstances, change how you think about your circumstances. Do your research.
- Celebrate your accomplishments.
Getting organized can help conserve your personal time and energy.
- Use the phone and Internet. Save travel time by doing research by phone or online.
- List tasks that need to be accomplished and prioritize. Do the most important things first – today, tomorrow, whenever.
- Schedule your day by blocking out times for certain tasks. Of course, you will need to be flexible, but having a game plan will help you to streamline your efforts.
- Implement a contingency plan. That is, capture on paper the steps for routine care of the person you are helping as well as his or her medical information. This will make it easier if and when someone else has to take over. Be sure to periodically review and update this plan. Help others become familiar with this plan.
- After you have comprised your list of those who can help you, delegate. Sometimes people don’t know how best to help, so be very specific about the type of help you need and when you need it. For example, you might suggest that in lieu of a gift, you might ask that friends assist you with your duties of providing care to a loved one.
It’s not easy, but following some of these steps will keep you on track as you work on balancing your life and caregiving responsibilities.