” You can’t pour from any empty cup” –Ursula Foster
This blog is dedicated to all of the caregivers out there, especially the ones with whom we work so closely. This is a gentle reminder that amongst the chaos, joys and pains of daily life, YOU are still important. That’s right! As a caregiver you have rights! Write these down and keep them visible so you can remember to take care of yourself. If you’re not taking care of yourself, you will not be helpful in taking care of others!
As a caregiver you have the right to:
Make Mistakes and Be Imperfect: Yup, we said it! You are human. You will make mistakes. Nobody is perfect. There is no one way to parent a child. It’s a constant learning process so educate yourself and keep trying your hardest.
Forgive Yourself and Begin Anew: Now that you’ve come to terms that you’ve made a mistake, practice forgiving yourself. What good will it do if you are stuck harping on what you should have done? None! Every moment and day is an opportunity to move forward. So forgive yourself and keep going.
Say No and Not Feel Guilty or Selfish: This can be a hard one to shake loose, but it’s really important. There is only so much you can do. If you stretch yourself too thin, you will be overwhelmed and burned out. It’s amazing how much easier it is to say “no” to things once you start. Don’t worry about long explanations or excuses. You know you best. So stick with your guns and say no!
Relax and Take Time for Yourself: Did you laugh when you read this one? “Ha, that’s a good one! When would I find time to relax??” This is a hard one. But it is SO important. No one is going to find the time for you – you need to make it. If you want something to happen in life, you need to be the one to take charge and make it happen. Find one small thing that helps you relax and then build from there.
Let Go of Yesterday and Embrace Today: The more time you spend in the past, the less time you are spending in the present. You cannot change the past. If you’re having trouble letting something go, then call a friend or professional who can help you to do so. Practice mindfulness and being in the moment.
Enlist Cooperation of your Family and Friends: Let people know what you need from them. Tell them when you need advice, or just a an ear to vent. Tell them when you need a night away or how they could be helpful to you. The more supports you can surround yourself with, the better! But it’s also important for people to know how they can helpful – don’t expect them to know this! Be aware of the strengths of each of your friends and family members and figure out who might be the most helpful for what.
Laugh and Be Happy: Laughter really is the best medicine. Life can throw some really horrible things at us that can make us lose sight of laughter and happiness. Set a reminder in your phone every day to look at a funny comic, YouTube video or listen to a comedy album. Laughter releases feel-good brain chemicals which help to alleviate pain. So try and incorporate laughter on a daily basis! It’s free!
Have Your Needs Considered Important by Others: Don’t let anyone tell you that your needs don’t matter. They do matter. Communicate to your partner or support system what it is that is important to you and how they can help respect those needs. That way if you find yourself backing out of self-care or making excuses, you will have someone to support you to stay on track. Take some time to really think about what your needs are.
Be Free to Do Special Things for Yourself: One of my favorite episodes of Parks and Recreation features a storyline of two characters taking one day out of the year to treat themselves. They buy lavish things, go to the spa and do anything that makes them feel special. In reality, having one day a year where you indulge in shopping, the spa and your favorite food might not be financially possible. Instead, think about some things that you might be able to do that feel special. Maybe it’s stopping at a favorite clothing store on the way home and just looking and trying on things without buying. Maybe it’s watching a TV show that others would disapprove of but that you secretly love! Or maybe it’s baking something delicious JUST for you and not sharing it. You can and should do something special for yourself often! You just need to sit down and ask yourself what those things are.
Care for Yourself, So that You Can Take Care of Others: This is the golden rule of caregiving. If you don’t take care of yourself, you will not be able to help others. Your kids are also watching you closely. Be a good role model to them by showing them the importance of taking care of yourself. Your body needs to be cared for physically, mentally and spiritually.
Written and Expanded upon by Kelly DiBenedetto, LMHC, ATR
Caregivers’ Bill of Rights from “Stroke Survivors” by Burquist and Kobylinski.