Ever felt like you're endlessly running on a treadmill, caught in the caregiving cycle that leaves no room for you? I've been there too, juggling the demands of caregiving, feeling physically and emotionally sapped but persisting because...well, who else would? In this heartfelt conversation, we'll navigate the often uncharted territory of self-care for caregivers.
Imagine being able to find a sanctuary amidst the chaos, where the only person you need to attend to is you. It's not an unrealistic dream, but a necessary reality we need to create as caregivers. We'll explore how just 15 minutes of self-care daily can considerably boost your mental health and productivity. Whether it's taking a brisk walk, indulging in a creative hobby, or simply sitting in silence, these bite-sized moments of self-care can bring monumental changes. However, the road to self-care isn't always smooth. Guilt often acts as a hurdle that we'll tackle head-on, reframing self-care from a luxury to a non-negotiable necessity.
A crucial part of our discussion will focus on the art of communication - expressing your needs to your loved ones and setting boundaries. It's about making a conscious effort to fill your cup so that it overflows, enabling you to care for others without compromising on your health and happiness. And remember, even if it's just 15 minutes a day, it's your time. As caregivers, it's high time we cared for ourselves. So, are you ready to join me on this self-care journey?
Thank you for listening. If you know of another caregiver who could benefit from this podcast, please copy and share this episode.
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Well, hello, my friend, and welcome to another episode of the Caregiver Cup podcast. It's Kathy here. I am really excited to talk about this episode's topic, because this is why I created the Caregiver Cup podcast. It's because when you become a busy caregiver, you inherit more work. You thought your life was busy before and now, being a caregiver, it's doubled or tripled and your already busy caregiver life is even busier and you now have to figure out how to take care of yourself. When you're taking care of somebody else and you're juggling your normal life, you also take on more challenges and struggles, which create more stress and emotional strain. Trying to get like, for example, trying to get second opinions or calling insurance companies or trying to figure out what is causing these ailments for your loved one. And then, on top of it, if you're working your job, you're trying to fit in how am I going to get this project done with the energy that I used to have? And you're trying to figure out how to work a normal caregiver week. Or you're rescheduling your personal appointments to fit in time for your loved one, because the more you advance in this caregiver life, the more behind you become, and I'm not intending to go ahead and stress you out right now, but just the facts. Then let's talk about the emotional strain and the stressors that zap your energy, talking to clients that they're not sleeping at night. Or you feel like you got hit by a bus in the morning when you had a good night's sleep. Or you're trying to do the simplest of tasks that you used to be able to do and you can't even get those done. How many times have you laid in bed at night and you couldn't fall to sleep because your mind's racing about? You know your loved one situation or all of the work you have? Or you fall asleep and then you wake up at 2 AM or 3 AM and you can't fall back to sleep because you know what the next day holds. I mean, these are all things that attack your mindset or attack your well-being self, and everybody is trying to go ahead and tell you take care of yourself, make sure you put yourself first. But you realize that you don't have time to take care of yourself and even if you did, you don't have the energy. And so, or the better question is is how do I believe I can take care of myself when I need to do that? And you just roll your eyes when somebody says don't forget to fill your cup first. It's harder than it actually sounds, and that's what I want to talk about today in this episode. I have a few notes written down, but I'm going to talk a lot off the cuff today. Like you and I are having a coffee date and we're just talking over the table, so my random thoughts today are going to be all over the place, and so I hope you can follow me. But I want to tackle this subject on self care in a way that you and I feel it's special. You and I feel that it's important, but it is almost, in a way, it's our escape. So think about it. As a caregiver, finding time and energy for yourself can seem like this impossible task, right. Impossible sometimes, especially when we're in this chaotic first start of caregiving or something has changed and now the demands are even more. We're often giving ourself to others and leaving little time for ourselves. But when we think about it different and we look at it from a different perspective, I want you to think about self care as a well deserved reward or a peaceful sanctuary, and I know right away what you're thinking I don't have time or I don't have the energy, but I want to break it down and let's start just talking about just 15 minutes. We all can find 15 minutes to ourself as a caregiver. Let's lose the heaviness of this word self care and how it feels, or taking time for ourself, because that can feel really heavy. When I think of self care, or when I did think of self care, I was thinking about oh, I got a plan, a morning routine, or I got to go to the gym, or I have to have this big chunk of chunk of time, but it can feel so heavy when you have so many things on your plate. In earlier courses that I've trained, I talked about the spinning plates and trying to keep. Envision somebody trying to keep all these spinning plates on sticks spinning. They're eventually going to fall. And so when you think about just 15 minutes and how 15 minutes can help you, we can do that. You and I can do that based on research and just experiences of the past. What frequent breaks can boost productivity and our overall mental health? Think about shift workers or people working jobs like my son and I, and I even managed a call center. I would train professionals, encourage my, my, my clients or my employees to go ahead and take fifteen minute breaks and when I was managing a call center team, I would say you need to get up and get away from your desk for fifteen minutes, leave your phone or get away, go outside fifteen minutes in the morning and fifteen minutes in the afternoon to recharge. Because I work for an insurance company and I managed to call center and most of the time when customers are calling in you're trying to problem solve or trying to fix something or explain something Can be exhausting for the employees that I had and it can be so stressful so them getting away for fifteen minutes and go going. We had a like this office where you could go downstairs and get a coffee or you could go outside for fifteen minutes and then come back and feel somewhat recharged. Also, this this past summer, into october, I take this program called mel robbins coaching program program. It's called the launch and her concept of this is learning, her content that she's giving. But all along your you're setting yourself up to work on a fifty work for fifteen minutes on a project and you can do a project every month. You can do a project over six weeks, you can do a project every three months, but just fifteen minutes to work on something Is all you need, and she preaches that blocking off fifteen minutes to work on it. I created the powerful caregiver school over three months and I took fifteen minutes a day yes, fifteen minutes. It's funny how, when you say I got fifteen minutes, how much you could get done. Now, other people that were part of my accountability group some people worked on their health, some people worked on research, some people worked on learning how to meditate but fifteen minutes a day Is just remarkable what you could accomplish. And so, even in my powerful caregiver school that just started last week, I encourage the students in the program To learn the content but also work on something that they want to go ahead and get better at in fifteen minutes. All of these students in my powerful caregiver school right now Are trying to incorporate self care into their day, and I use the concept of take that fifteen minutes and incorporate that into your day, and that's what I'm talking about today, when I, one of my clients, is working on meditation and being able to find time and then sitting with herself and she's trying different things like Do I want to just be quiet by myself and meditate or do I want to find an app on my phone? Do I want to do it in the morning or in the evening, or where can I fit it in? And then she's measuring her results. One of my clients loves to read and she loves to sit in her reading little bench nook that she has at her home that looks out the window and she reads and she finds that it's soothing, and she picked one of her favorite books and his reading for fifteen minutes. It takes her away. One of my other clients in that's not in the caregiver program, I'm sorry in the powerful caregiver school program is she is Is stressing out about her house, that she's taking care of a parent now and she's gotta spend all of her time with her parent and she doesn't have time to stay caught up at home, and so she's trying the fifteen minute approach to each and every day, and I do this myself and so it's. It's for me it's a combination of self care, but it's also a combination of stress relief. She puts on her earbuds and she listens to her music, and for fifteen minutes every day that's all she takes. Is she get something done around home? Think about what you could get done in fifteen minutes I could go ahead and swiffer my floor and I could vacuum my living room fifteen minutes. I could go ahead and throw a load of laundry and fold it, fold the ones in the dryer fifteen minutes and maybe get the next one into the dryer, who knows. But fifteen minutes you can go ahead and do something and that's all you have. So make the best of it and the rest of it you're just gonna let go. So let's talk about this fifteen minute Approach in activities caregivers can consider doing during a fifteen minute break, and we'll talk about when you want to fit this in. But mindfulness activities like deep breathing can go ahead and help you. Let's say you're in the, your your loved one has a doctor's appointment or they have labs to get done. You can say I'm gonna take fifteen minutes and go sit in the car for fifteen minutes and do mindfulness practices and reduce stress and increase mental clarity. Where can you fit that in? Another thing is a brisk walk. I call this a brisk walk. Like you were late for something, I can get fifteen minutes in if I do a brisk walk around the park. Sorry, the sirens are going off around here, so if you hear those, just know that that's my background noise right now. Stretching or yoga might be something. All of these release and orphans and boost energy. It also can create, do creative outlets. Engaging in a creative hobby Like drawing or writing or a musical instrument can can be a great stress relief. I know I've mentioned this in the past. One of my clients took took on a new Musical instrument and she learned to play that the cello for fifteen minutes a day. It's so simple. We talked about reading as an activity. We talked about meditation as an activity, but just getting outside in fresh air and walking around outside can help as well. I did do this a lot when my husband's in chemotherapy or was in chemotherapy. I would say I'm going to take a 15 minute break. I'll be right back. I have my phone. If you need anything, I'm going to go, walk outside for 15 minutes Recharge. You can even do things like when am I eating and drinking? Today, can I refuel myself and make myself a shake and drink a shake for 15 minutes? Or maybe calling a friend. Think about some activities you can do. Think about the overall thing that it does. Just make sure it recharges you. It's something that doesn't bring you down. I'm going to point blank, say it out loud is you don't want to go ahead and scroll your phone Because that doesn't recharge you. It actually gets your brain thinking again. You want to go ahead and recharge yourself, do something you enjoy or you feel relief from, and so it doesn't mean you cram in a doctor's call or cram in getting a couple pages done of your project. That defeats the purpose. I would recommend you put your phone down and you enjoy that time. So let's talk about actions that you can take to go ahead and implement this 15 minute break into your day. It's called planning and prioritizing self-care. First of all, you want to discuss the importance of this time with your loved one and let them know hey mom, hey dad, hey spouse, hey friend, whoever you're taking care of. Let them know that I realize that the energy gets sucked out of me or if I don't take a break, I am toast and I want to be with you. I want to be my good old self and you want to tell them, explain in your words why you're taking a break and what that does for you. As a matter of fact, when I did that with my spouse, he held me accountable. He asked me every day did you take your break this morning? And they can help you. And then, for you, you have to believe this, you have to know that this is something that you need and so creating your why and finding something that you are looking forward to think about it. Kids look forward to recess, that 15 minute break that they get in the morning and the afternoon, and they look forward to it playing, you know, kickball or four squares or jump rope or whatever they do. They look forward to getting outside. You want to look forward to it as well, and so you want to then schedule it. If an alarm on your phone works or you look at your schedule and you know each and every day you know your loved one is finished and you got everything set, and you put this break into your calendar. Or if you're working during the day, you block that time off, and then that should feel like a reward. But if you are, you are incentivized by rewards. Maybe you do something with it. I, I'm a sticker person. I have to admit. When you go ahead and put a sticker on my written down calendar or I highlighted on my online calendar that I did it, it makes me feel good, or maybe, if you do five days in a row, you treat yourself to a coffee or whatever it would be, and so that you are reinforcing that habit, so that you have it Now. Some of the things that I did over the past years, especially during the springtime, is I love gardening and I could get lost out in gardening for hours, but when you're caregiving I couldn't spend hours outside especially. I was looking at my memories. Four years ago, my husband had knee surgery and so it was constant care for him and taking care of him. But I would go ahead and schedule time and I would say I'm going to be outside for 15 minutes and I'm going to do some gardening. I looked forward to it, I couldn't wait to get outside and then, when I was done with my 15 minutes, I would take pictures and I would send it to him, because he couldn't get out there, and say look at what I got accomplished today. Or I would send it to my mom or my friends so that it was something else to think about. When I was in hospice care with my dad in the cabin up in northern Wisconsin with him, where we were with him for many, many weeks, I would say they had a dog and his name was Coco, and I would say I'm going to go for a walk with Coco in the morning and the evening to get fresh air, because I was in this small little cabin and there was like nothing else to focus in on. I would go stir crazy, and so when I walked with Coco, put my earbuds on for 15 minutes, I felt recharge. Eventually, my brother and my sister found things to recharge for those 15 minutes as well, and we held each other countable. I'll talk about another one. Ellen is her name and is one of my clients. She missed her morning routines. She would go to the gym, she would do a hit class with their group. She couldn't fit it in anymore and she could feel the reverse effects from not doing the activity. So I told her why don't you pick one thing that you want to do for yourself that would fit into your schedule right now and is something that you enjoy, knowing that eventually, someday, you'll go back to your classes? But right now you have to fill that void and you still need activity because your body is just starving for it. And so what she did is, each morning she found a video, a YouTube video of a yoga class that she attended and for 15 minutes she would do yoga in the morning and then for 15 minutes in the afternoon she would go walking. It took some while for her to experiment with it, but she eventually felt it. I met with her after one week and I could hear it in her voice. I heard joy, I heard energy. And then she said to me her partner, her spouse, that was sick, was now her accountability partner and he made sure that she has that 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon. So now let's talk and shift gears just a little bit and talk about overcoming guilt and barriers that happen, especially the guilt. Why do we feel guilty for taking care of ourselves? We've talked about this in the Powerful Caregiver School last week. I've talked about it in past group coaching programs that I've had, I've talked about them in individual clients and I feel it and felt it. So, first of all, it's easier said than done, but we need to figure out how we lose this stigma, how we lose this thought that gets into our head. Because I'm just going to use simple things we can't use our phone forever and ever and ever without recharging it. It has to go on the charger, and right now my phone needs to be on the charger overnight. It needs to be recharged every 24 hours or else that little diagram shows that it's losing battery and then eventually it says 10% left, 8% left, 5% left. And how do you feel when you lose energy, especially on your phone? You start stressing out and you got to find that charger. Our body says that as well and you have to recognize those symptoms. Think about your car. You put gas in your car, but eventually you run out of gas if you don't refuel the car. If you're like my husband, it can't get below half. He's watching it and wants to make sure it gets enough fuel, and then the oil light will come on when it needs an oil change or any maintenance issues. That happens. Our car knows that it can't keep going without service. We need to think about our body. What are the things that come up for you when you need to be recharged? How are you feeling? Do you feel emotional? Do you feel sick? Do you feel body aches? What is that? And when we listen to it instead of ignoring it, then we should be doing that. So when you experience guilt, there are several reasons why you feel guilty and I want to talk about these. Because when you understand why that guilt is, we feel guilty because of our sense of responsibility. We feel guilty because we need to take time for ourselves when our loved ones are ill. But we need to change that. We need to go ahead and shift that. We perceive it as selfish when it's not a selfish act. Especially when we prioritize others, we need to also prioritize ourselves. We worry that our time for self-care could make the loved one feel abandoned or neglected, versus, instead of talk to them to say I'm not abandoning you, I'm going to take this time so that I can recharge. And when you have those honest and open conversations with them, they'll understand. And if they don't understand, then you just need to figure out a way to go ahead and say this is my expectations. We also put such high expectations on our plate when we're thinking we're falling short because we need to take care of ourselves Instead of looking at when we take care of ourselves. We're more alert, we're more able to go ahead and make those hard decisions. The one that irks me the most, the one that I wish I could go ahead and solve, is societal and cultural norms. There's some sort of stigma behind the caregiver has to give up everything and do everything, when in fact it should be the opposite. And you also may feel guilty because you don't have the support system. But when you think about it in 15 minute chunks you're OK, and the biggest one is we internalize it too much, we put too much pressure on ourselves that it's wrong and it's not wrong to go ahead and do the right thing. It's kind of like saying no if somebody needs help when you're already overworked, you should be praising yourself for recognizing that you can't do it. It's okay to say no. It's important to understand and address your feelings of guilt, because neglecting your self care leads to burnout, increased stress and, most importantly, a decline in your physical health and your emotional well-being. When caregivers recognize that self care is good for them and not selfish selfish, it becomes more effective. And so you need to go ahead and set those expectations and if you can look for support from your friends and your family and groups, especially myself, I'm gonna be your biggest, biggest cheerleader when you tell me I did something for myself, I am gonna shout it from the rooftops, but I can relate right now, and if you've been following me on Instagram, we got a new puppy last week. And we got a new puppy. His name is Eddie, and it's hard for me to go ahead and put him in his little crate when I go for my morning walks because I hear him crying and whimpering. It's hard for me to go ahead and leave him home when I go and do things because my internal mindset is like, oh, poor thing, he needs my help. How can I be so mean to leave him in there when he's perfectly fine? I need to shift my mindset and tell him I'll be right back, I need to go ahead and take care of myself, I need to run to the store to get groceries. I need to do things. So overcoming guilt for self-care is so essential for everyone in this world, especially now for your wellbeing of a caregiver. So I wanna talk about some strategies to help you overcome a guilt and address the importance of this. First of all, you have to recognize self-care is a necessity, not a luxury, understanding that what it can do for you, what it can do for you, or recognizing, if you don't do it, what it does to you. And shifting your mindset is gonna take some work. You need to change your perspective on self-care. Instead of viewing it as a time away from your caregiver responsibility, see it as an investment in your ability to provide better care. You're recharging. You're recharging just like that phone. Once your phone is recharged, you can do the things that you need to do off your phone versus having an empty battery. You need to set realistic expectations for yourself and for your loved one. No one I mean no one, and this is hard, kathy talking can be a caregiver 24-7 without experiencing tremendous burnout. Embrace the fact that taking breaks is essential for your wellbeing and your ability to continue caregiving effectively. You have to. You have to. You need to also communicate your needs. Talk openly with your loved one. Talk openly with your family members about your need for self-care. Explain your why that it's important for both you and the person you're caregiving, having those hard conversations looking for support and encouragement that can assist you while you do your self-care. I know I've shared this example a few times, but my husband went to the Y and the gentleman at the Y said he takes an hour every day at the Y while the nurse is there supporting. He found a way to seek support. You need to. Also. Another strategy is plan and schedule self-care, treat, self-care activities or scheduling as non-negotiable appointments on your calendar. You need that 15 minute break and think about it. When employees don't get the 15 minute break and a 15 minute break in the afternoon, they're breaking the law, they're breaking the. They'll get fine, they'll get sued, whatever it will be. I'm not a lawyer but again, that is essential from a work practice perspective. It should be for you as well. Another strategy is start small, short, manageable breaks like 15 minutes can make a huge difference for you. 15 minutes for you to walk outside, 15 minutes for you to do something that you enjoy, 15 minutes to just recharge or rest and when, and think about it as something new and how you're gonna make a difference. And practice self-compassion. Be kind to yourself and recognize that you're doing your best in this challenging role and not feeling guilty about it. Because, just like Ellen, if you start, I bet I hear and feel some joy in you for doing a little bit of time for yourself. I want you to focus on the positive outcomes and benefits of self-care. Pay attention to how you feel afterwards when you totally shut off for 15 minutes, the stress, the caregiving, and just enjoy it when you meditate. Whatever it would be sorry, I think I'm getting the hiccups. That would be a fun one for me. Another strategy is to go ahead and reframe your guilt. Consider guilt as a signal that you may need to adjust and work on and eliminate. Maybe this is your deep chest breathing, maybe it's your meditation, maybe it's a journaling that you do for 15 minutes. Use it as a cue to reassess your self-care rather than beating yourself up or abandoning it. You also should be, if it's something you can't figure out, finding a support group, finding professional help, messaging me at Kathy Lynn Vann and asking for help, because remembering that overcoming guilt for self-care is an ongoing process. It's normal. It's a normal human response on occasion, especially for caregivers, to feel this way, and prioritizing self-care without sacrificing your caregiving responsibility is necessary and something you need to practice. I really want to change this stigma for caregivers. When I see or hear a caregiver talking and taking time for herself oh, I talked about this before I want to shout it from the rooftops. I'm going to broadcast it on Instagram. I'm going to give you a shout out, send me a picture, send me a message, because more and more of us seeing this. It's just going to encourage us more and more. We're going to jump on the bandwagon and want to be cool. If we could just flood the social media, flood our mind and flood our emails with the small steps of self-care, the rewards will pay off, my friend, for both you and your loved one. So I have some homework for you before we end today. I want you to identify what you like to do In 15 minutes. What would you like to do? I want you to create this list of things, like a joy list, or I want you to close your eyes and picture yourself doing fun things. Now, you'll have to be realistic. If you're with your loved one, you're going to have to figure out something. But I know, rose, if you're listening, I'm going to use your example. You like to paint or you like to read? You like to sit on the patio? Those are things that you can do, but list out the things. I did this when Dennis was doing his stem cell transplant. What are 15 minutes of time? What could I do away from home now that would bring me joy? Number two is talk to your family, your friends and your loved ones. Tell them why you're starting this new routine. Tell them you want to be a better caregiver, you want to take better care of yourself, because I have to be on my game each and every day, or maybe you've been moody, or maybe you've been struggling lately and they can sense that, saying I'm going to try this. I think this is what I need to do Find your why and tell them. Tell them about recharging. Use the phone idea. Use the car idea. Tell them I need to recharge and refresh. It only takes me 15 minutes and I'm going to fit it in at this time. I need your help and I bet they're going to help you. Then schedule it and find that time that's going to work best for you. Maybe it's getting up 15 minutes earlier each day because that's the only way. Maybe it's 15 minutes during your loved ones while they watch their favorite TV show, or maybe it's 15 minutes while they're taking a nap. Then find yourself an accountability partner. Find yourself someone. Maybe it's your loved one, or maybe it's me, maybe it's a family member or a friend. They're going to be over the top excited for you that you're talking about this, because they want to help you and they don't know how to help you. They can help you this way. Then experiment and take small steps your first time around. You might not find that this excites you. Maybe you want to walk every day and you've got a rainy week and it's just frustrating and it sucks to walk in the rain. I'm just using as an example. Then what else could you do? You're going to have to experiment and find things that work best for you. I know there's a lot of people that love to crochet. You could crochet a little bit for 15 minutes. Or maybe there's a Netflix series you love to binge watch but you can't anymore. You're going to watch 15 minute clips. When you're watching those 15 minute clips, you're going to march in place and watch that. After that, you're going to tell me what you're doing. I want to hear from you. I want to cheer you on, I want to encourage you. I want to help you if something doesn't work out. Let's do this together. When you find just 15 minutes, you can improve your well-being, you can boost your energy, you can improve your mood and your mindset, and it's going to help you. There's so much science behind helping you make better decisions. You're going to help your relationships because you're refilling your cup. I know this will help. Let me end today with a quote from Eleanor Brown. This one says self-care is so important when you take time to replenish your spirit. It allows you Let me start over. Oh my God, I'm going to flub, flub, but I'm not going to even edit it, because this is Kathy Raw here. Self-care is so important when you take time to replenish your spirit. It allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel. That's what my podcast is all about. When you have a full cup, you pour your cup and help others. Eventually it becomes less and less in that cup. You want to keep that cup filling. You want to keep filling it back up. The only way you can keep filling it back up is by you taking care of yourself. My friend, this podcast just lit me up and I'm on fire. I think it's such an important topic to talk about. I hope this gets you motivated and inspired to go ahead and find your 15 minutes today, until we talk again next week. Bye for now. I hope you take me up on my offer and email me or message me or take pictures or all of the above, and tell me how you're doing from a 15 minute perspective. Bye for now.