As a new calendar year begins, we often reflect on years past and set new goals and aspirations for the one that lies ahead. New Year’s resolutions typically revolve around pursuing happier and healthier versions of ourselves. However, real life often causes these personal pledges to fall by the wayside—especially for family caregivers.

The forum is filled with people coming together to share valuable information. To help you succeed in your endeavors this year, we’ve compiled experienced caregivers’ best suggestions for staying active, relaxing and maintaining relationships. Happy New Year!

Pursue Rewarding and Enjoyable Activities

“Genealogy! I find this relaxing and great to discuss later on with your loved ones. Even if they can't offer any help in the process, just discussing relatives and their past really brings you together. There are many books and web sites (free and paid) to help you. I also do rubber stamping and crafts that I share with the residents of nursing facilities. The residents and I have been making all types of cards for their loved ones.” –BarbaraAnn8

“I have built a tremendous patio and garden. The physical element is a great way to relieve stress. Being outdoors is where I've always belonged. It also gives me a sense of personal accomplishment. Not to mention, Mom can enjoy the flowers, too.” –Bonniepages

“I very much enjoy knitting and crocheting. I make Christmas presents for my closest relatives, and that helps me stay connected to them. I also work on charity projects since I enjoy volunteering, but I am not able to commit to anything that involves me being somewhere each week at a particular time. It gives me a sense of achievement to know that, while I am spending all these hours caregiving, I am also creating some beautiful and useful things for others.” –Ginach

“I always had the desire to get a college degree, but over the years I never had the opportunity to attend, except for a class here and there. When I became a caregiver for my blind and ill husband and became housebound, I attended credit classes at the local community college (one at a time) and signed up for online courses. The challenge of the assignments and interaction with other students and teachers focused and balanced me. In due time, I earned an Associate's Degree in General Studies. I was in my mid-70s by this time and was retired, so it didn't add to my work resume, but I had tremendous satisfaction from making one of my longtime dreams come true.” –gersto

“I really enjoy gardening, going to the dog park, puzzles and taking bubble baths. It's like meditation for me. I just ‘go away’ in my head and find it very relaxing. And the dog park is just fun!” –Restlessremedy

Browse Our Free Senior Care Guides

Set Reasonable Goals

“Whatever your hobbies were before caregiving, you have to make time to do those things you once enjoyed. This is also a time to explore something you may have always wanted to try doing. I teach a class called ‘Powerful Tools for Caregivers.’ It is about us taking care of ourselves, which helps us to be better caregivers. I have the class work on weekly action plans. However, setting a goal does not mean saying, ’I am going to walk 7 days a week,’ and then you only walk two days and you feel like you failed. Be realistic and say to yourself, ‘I will walk two days for half an hour.’ If you walk more, then great! But two days you probably will be able to achieve. So, try something you wanted to do or have done in the past, but be realistic about how often.” –LeeCaregiver1

“I am trying to work on an online degree and learning to play piano, which Mom enjoys listening to. I can definitely get out for brief times to walk or lift weights for a few minutes. Maybe I will keep a little calendar to keep track of my own activities I am able to ‘fit in’ each day as a start.” –SusanO

Physical and Mental Exercise Are Key

“Exercise is very important, and I love to be outdoors. I am fortunate that my mother doesn't have to be watched every moment of the day, so I can usually take a walk, a bike ride, a swim or a paddle up the creek that runs by her back yard. There are some days when I can't fit in even a 10-minute walk, but I usually do some work outside like planting flowers, hanging out the laundry, filling the bird feeders and so forth. Mom likes to watch whatever I'm doing, so the puttering in the yard is exercise for me and entertainment for her.” –dejavuagain

“If you want to protect your own brain from age-related decline, physical exercise and socializing are the best methods. Force yourself to find ways to be around people more often, or find respite care so you can get out of the house more frequently. Experts also suggest that you take up a totally new activity. I started to oil paint for the first time in my life. It stretches my brain in every direction. Whatever you decide to do, keep it up!” –ADCaregivers

“Exercise is vital. I have a treadmill that I use most days. I play quick games on my iPad that require some mental skills, so I don't feel like my brain is turning to mush. And gardening is always good for the soul.” –Daughterof1930

Make Time to Socialize and Keep up Relationships

“I participate in a few groups at my church to have lunch, knit or crochet together, or discuss things. It's important to get out with ‘normal’ people to talk and hear about other people’s lives and the issues of the day.” –dragonbait

“My idea for staying mentally healthy while caregiving is to get out of the house by going for walks, shopping, and going to the senior center to exercise or talk to people. I work from home, so getting out is a good break.” –JessieBelle

“When Mom wasn't home, I'd make a special meal for my girlfriend and have a date night. Let's admit it: a little loving improves your attitude and complexion. Your disposition towards caregiving is more positive, and there's a bounce in your step. There’s nothing like taking a long bubble bath with your honey and talking. Relationships take a lot of work if you want them to last.” –Eddie

Do you have an activity that you enjoy or an approach that you use to ensure you get some time to yourself? Join fellow caregivers in the forum and chime in on this discussion to get support and celebrate your hard-earned “me time.”