I’m a working mother of two elementary school aged children. Plus, I’m caregiving my aging father, who seems to require more of my time and energy each month. On top of all that, my husband is feeling neglected, so I’m trying to keep him happy, as well. Needless to say, I’m having a difficult time juggling all of this. Do you have any advice on how to keep my sanity?
Signed: Stretched Thin
Dearest Stretched Thin
I congratulate you for being a hero to your loved ones! Like so many women in this world, you are a member of the Sandwich Generation, a growing number of people who are trying to balance everyone’s needs. Even though this is a huge challenge in your life, I wonder if you can also view it as an opportunity for self-care?
In 2014, I was caregiving my husband, who had stage IV cancer. Everyday, I accompanied him to the infusion center where he received his radiation and chemotherapy. I was also caring for our 13 year old son who had Lyme disease. Every morning, I drove him to school and often had to turn right around to pick him up early because he wasn’t feeling well. During all of this, I continued to work full time in my psychotherapy and coaching practices while regularly checking in with my aging parents and in-laws. Needless to say, I, like you, was juggling quit a bit.
At first, I felt very overwhelmed and stressed. Then, I had an internal shift. I asked myself, What would I recommend to my clients if they were in the same situation? That’s when I decided to turn caregiving into an opportunity for self-love and care. Even though I didn’t have a lot of time to myself, I choose to do little things throughout each day that made a huge difference for me and my loved ones. Below are the strategies I used that kept me sane.
SELF CARE WHILE CAREGIVING
- Daily Gratitude – Each morning in my journal, I listed three bullet points of what I was grateful for. For example, I wrote: I’m grateful for… my sister’s caring voice mail message; my ability to be helpful; my body for all it does. It only took 30 seconds to start my day off on the right foot.
- Body Movement – Between dropping my son off at school and before meeting my husband at the infusion center, I either took a yoga class, power-walked, or even shoveled the driveway of snow. I did anything to keep my body moving, which helped to release stress.
- Positive Multitasking – During walks, drives, and chores, I was on my iPhone either connecting with a caring friend or listening to positive messaging, such as webinars and walking meditations. This kept any stinking thinking to a minimum.
- Self-praise and acknowledgement – Because I was stepping up in a real way for other people, I realized that caregiving was a job that deserved accolades and applause. My self-talk included upbeat statements like, “Yay me, I’m so wonderful! Today I earned 10,000 kudos points!!!” Of course, these moments of self-praise always made me smile or even laugh.
- Presence – One day, I was on a phone session with my patient and it dawned on me that I was feeling guilty for not being with my husband or our son during that hour. My poor client didn’t have my full attention! I immediately created an intention to be present with whomever I was with and what ever I was doing. This internal shift changed everything. Because I’m human, I wasn’t present every single second, but certainly more than ever before. The mantra I repeated often was, “I am present and all is well.”
- Accepting Help – “Can I call you in a pinch?” I’d ask my neighbors, friends and family. Of course, they all said “Yes!” And, I did call them. Every once in awhile, I needed their assistance and they were happy to step in by picking my son up from school, grabbing a food or pantry item at the supermarket, or by simply lending a listening ear.
I hope you try these simple yet very effective self-loving and caring techniques during this challenging time. You deserve it!!
This blog post is featured in Tamara’s monthly column in My Authentic Life Magazine called Talk To Tamara. Click here to see the article.
For those who are going through a challenging experience, like cancer and other medical illnesses, feel calm in minutes by downloading the free Loving Meditations App. For more information, go to calmcancerstress.com.
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