Finding Balance While Caregiving

By Barbara Small

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Balancing the demands of caring for another and taking care of one's own physical, mental and emotional health is essential for family caregivers. It is hard to predict when caregiving might become part of your life and, when the time comes, the additional tasks are often squeezed into an already busy life packed with the responsibilities of children, spouse, work and daily chores. Many caregivers take on this new role without letting go of anything else and, predictably, end up exhausted and burnt out.

Balance is important in order to stay healthy on all levels. “Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you perform better when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals and values are in balance,” says best-selling author and professional speaker on human potential Brian Tracy.

Maintaining personal wellness is just as important as anything you do for someone else. Think of the possible effect of neglecting to take care of yourself might have on the person you are caring for. If you get sick, who will take care of the two of you? It is not selfish to focus on yourself. Make your health and wellness a priority.

Take a few minutes to complete this exercise. Divide a sheet of paper into two columns. On the left side, make a list of all the people, activities and responsibilities that drain your energy. These include things that stress you, frustrate you, worry or anger you, and might include the barking dog next door, the bills that need to be paid or your chronically sore back. Focus on all areas of your life, not just in your role as caregiver.

In the right-hand column, list all the people, activities and things that energize you, things you are passionate about, that interest you and you enjoy. Include activities you used to do, but might not take time to do anymore. These might include having coffee with friends, buying flowers or watching a funny movie.

When completed look at the two lists and consider the following:

How might you reduce, eliminate, change or minimize the draining impact of the items on the left-hand list? It might mean letting go of expectations or asking for help.

How can you include more of the items on the energizing list into your life? By choosing to be with the people who bring you energy or participating in activities that feed you emotionally, physically or psychologically, your life will be more enjoyable, your energy will increase and you will be able to function more effectively in your caregiving role. You will be more patient, less frustrated and more able to set priorities and problem solve.

Finally, choose three items from the energizing list you will make time for in the next couple of weeks. Make a commitment to both yourself and the person you are caring for.

Creating balance in your life and practising good self-care allows you to care for another without lowering the quality of your own life. Everyone benefits.

Next month: Are you new to caregiving?



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