To be a caregiver and survive you absolutely must find ways each day to care for yourself. You must find happiness – by doing whatever it takes.
Make an effort to live each day in happiness. It's your birthright. You are meant to be happy. You were born in joy and it's your obligation to wake up each day and shout it to the rafters, if you must, but the message is; "It's okay for me to be happy!" And by the way...it's okay for you to take a break if you need to.
Now this is easy to say, but it's actually doing it, taking the action that is the hardest part for most people. There is always something. It's kind of like working out. If you don't schedule it, it's not likely happening. There are some things you can do that cost nothing and are good for your soul. I'm open to hearing all the reasons about why you can't take care of you, but I'm also open to hearing from those you who somehow find the time to steal or plan a few minutes a day that are designed to feed your soul.
What can caregivers do to find happiness?
For many, this is a perplexing question. There are literally thousands of things you can do and they cost nothing. It's a good idea to create your personal list. What makes you happy might be different for someone else. Pick what works for you – and then put it into practice. Wake up slowly. Take your time waking up in the morning. Listen to the sounds of morning. Try waking up 30 minutes earlier and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea in bed. Or, weather permitting, have that coffee out on the patio. I know. You don't have time for such nonsense. Why not? Remember I said to wake up 30 minutes earlier. This is a simple calming luxury to begin your day on a good note.
Get connected to what means the most to you. Think about what you deeply value. Once you have determined this, find ways to experience those values in your life. Tap into your center to discover what is missing from your life. Get quiet and listen and it will speak volumes to you. When we are sad or angry or frustrated, generally something in our soul has been ignored. Pay attention. Get outside. Do something in nature: walk, hike, run, bike, sit and meditate. Nature soothes and rejuvenates. It's good for your body; it clears your head; and it's free. Practice the art of play. Do you even remember how to play? Many of us have forgotten how to be childlike. If you have a hard time with playing, try adding some laughter to your day. We forget how funny things can be when we get caught up in problems. Keep a gratitude journal. Although you may feel, as a caregiver, you have nothing to be grateful for, keep this in mind: there is not a person living who cannot find something to be grateful for on a daily basis. Expressing gratitude can change your life. Keep a special journal for this purpose alone. If you're grateful for the freckles on your daughter's nose, write it. If you are grateful for the sunshine after days of cloudiness, make a note of it. If your dog did something cute or funny that added joy to your life and helped you forget the drudgery of the day, even for just a moment, write about it. After you've done this for a while, go back and review and see if you don't end up feeling happy and grateful. Spend some time with friends. Friends are our extended family. They are the people who we choose. Our friends want us to be nurtured, fulfilled, joyous and complete. (If this is not what your friends want for you, then it's time to move on.)
Turn off the television. This is a pretty drastic measure, but we are so inundated with negative messages that turning off the television even for one day a week can make a big difference in your daily perceptions. Set aside a day when the TV doesn't go on and decide in advance what you will do on that day to nurture your mind, body and soul. You might like it so much, that you'll actually turn the TV off more than one day a week.
I know it's hard to add these things to your life. I know caregiving is hard. I know every day can be hard. But it's much harder when you have no happiness. So today, be your own best friend. Decide to be kind to yourself and add just one of these things to your life. If you're feeling particularly motivated, add several. You will be amazed at how the smallest changes can make the biggest differences.
Cindy Laverty is the Founder of The Care Company & host of The Cindy Laverty Show, the nation's only commercial radio program dedicated to the subject of CARE. Cindy is an author, public speaker and advocate for America's family caregivers. For more information and her website,visit her Expert Profile.