“Don’t forget to take care of yourself.”
“Don’t forget to make time for you.”
“You can’t take care of your loved one if you don’t take care of you.”
How many of us are repeatedly told that but find it hard to do? I know I did for the longest time. I was so focused on learning to care for my son, and taking care of the long list of things that needed to be done, that the furthest thing from my mind was making time for me. In the early days and weeks after my son’s injury, just the thought of doing something for myself actually caused me to feel anxious. It felt “too normal” when everything else felt anything but that.
Fortunately, I had an old friend who had been my neighbor in Virginia living near my son’s rehab center in Atlanta, Georgia. She made sure she “kidnapped” me from the hospital occasionally when she knew I needed a break. Sometimes our time away was to shop for necessities but she still made sure we did something enjoyable too. Thank goodness for having such a “bossy” and “won’t take no for an answer” kind of friend. She was definitely a lifesaver during such a difficult time.
Once home from rehab, I spent almost all my free time sleeping. I was in such a perpetual state of exhaustion that I had no energy to do much else. But once I began getting more rest as my son’s needs changed, I realized I needed to devote some time to myself. At first it was just small increments of time to do simple but enjoyable things. Then as my son became more independent, I began to carve out more time for me.
Now I tell new caregivers how important it is to put time for themselves on their daily “to do” list right away. Even if it is just an hour each day, you need to find that time to do something you enjoy. If you have a chance to have someone come stay with your loved one for a couple of hours, all day, or overnight, take that time to get away. Please don’t allow yourself to feel guilty doing it either. I know some of us can struggle with guilt when we know our loved ones can’t get away too. Here are some of the little things that I enjoyed doing when I started making time for myself:
1) Talking on the phone with a friend
2) Taking a walk
3) Reading a book
4) Watching a favorite TV show
5) Listening to music
6) Taking a long shower
7) Enjoying a cup of tea/coffee
8) Taking a “power” nap
10) Giving myself a manicure
Though these things might not seem like much, they were the start of my “me time.” I hope you can also find longer periods of time where you can really get away from everything that demands so much of you. I must admit that my first long stretch of time away was bittersweet. Though I had fun and was able to relax, when it was over, I realized how much my life had changed. I struggled with feelings of sadness afterwards. Now I am just grateful to be able to do things that I once took for granted.
So make sure “me time” is on your daily calendar. It's that special time that is all about you and no one else.
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The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. This individual has been compensated by Bard Medical for the time and effort in preparing this article for BARD’s further use and distribution. BMD/BMDA/1216/0348