Can Caregivers Win the Numbers Game?

Photo by Black ice

Extreme caregivers have more days that can feel overwhelming, stressful, and exhausting than most people. We also know our mind wants to protect us, and it wants the path of least resistance. This can be a challenge. Challenging days are stressful, and our brain wants to relieve our suffering as quickly as possible. As I shared last week in my article, the fastest relief comes from things that will not serve us well long term. Repeatedly choosing to overeat, overdrink, and binge-watching shows in lieu of rest will negatively impact our health long-term. It becomes a vicious cycle that can be hard to escape.

Remember the Staples commercials with the easy button? When we react and press the easy button over and over, we do not teach ourselves to process stress in a healthy manner. Is there any hope for caregivers to manage caring for others and themselves? Is it even possible to care for our loved ones 24/7 and ourselves too? What actions can we take to lessen the impact of extreme caregiving on our overall well-being? I think we can spiral in the enormity and gravity of the problem, or we can look for small, actionable steps that we can take to lessen the feelings of overwhelm, stress, and exhaustion that have us reaching for the red button.

There are a few simple things I implement daily that improve my mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. Nothing takes time away from my family, and while they seem small and insignificant, they are actually the big things.

  • The first thing I do, when I wake up, is drink at least 16 ounces of water. Before I do anything else. If the rest of the day goes down in flames, I have started my day hydrated. Water is essential. Often, when we feel fatigued, hungry, anxiety, our body needs hydration. 
  • I spend a few minutes each morning before I get out of bed or look at my phone, meditating or sitting in silence. I listen to the thoughts that come up. If my thoughts are shady or unkind, I gently counter them with loving-kindness. I meditate and set an intention on how I will show up and face the challenges that may come my way.
  • I reduce friction and decision fatigue by making a plan every day. I write down on a piece of paper what I will do. Yes, an old-school planner. I write my three top priorities for the day, and sometimes REST is the priority, so I write that down. There have been days where REST is the only thing I know must happen. I also roughly plan my meals and how I will move my body. I set simple movement goals that are attainable. (Ride the bike for 10 minutes. Stretch for 5 minutes. Walk around the block.)
  • At the end of the day, I write down moments of gratitude or things I am grateful for in my life. (At least three things.)
  • I set my phone to not disturb from 9 pm to 6 am daily, AND I put it a bit out of arm’s reach on my nightstand.
  • I remind myself each night how much better I will feel tomorrow IF I choose not to eat, drink, or stay up late watching shows. It is a gift to my tomorrow-self, to seize rest and relax tonight.

Creating simple morning and evening routines is a great way to win the numbers game. These strategies will not always work, but when they do, you decrease the number of times you let your impulses or urges be in charge of your actions. You take control of your wellness and care. You begin to apply the strategies you use to care for the ones you love to yourself as well.

Published by bshort1968

I am a self-described caregiver. I love to help and care for others. I have learned the value of caring for myself as well. Now I want to live my life helping others learn to care for others and take care of themselves as well.

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