Giving and (Care) Taking

It’s November, the start of the holidays and the season of giving! I want to focus on caregivers. I chose this topic since I’m writing from my husband’s hospital room. To make a very long story short, he had emergency surgery to remove his appendix, which hadn’t burst yet but apparently was hugely inflamed. The past three days have been a whirlwind.  I’ve had to make sure my husband is OK and settled at the hospital, update his boss and colleagues, as well as my boss/director and our friends, and still be a mom to a 4 year old and a dog. Oh yeah, and last but certainly not least, it’s my 3rd week on a new job, so there’s THAT too. It’s been a lot of coordination and activity and a ginormous amount of stress! 

Caregivers need to make sure we’re not just giving and giving and giving until we’re empty, exhausted, and depleted beyond repair, but also make sure to ask and accept (and take!) help when offered. I’m bone weary at the moment, but all of this has brought with it some truly important realizations and things to remember when life gets rough.  Here are five things to keep in mind:  

  1. Work can wait.  You will never get to the end of your life and think, “Dang, I wish I would have worked more!”  My husband’s boss and my own boss/director have been fabulous and accommodating throughout this ordeal. They have encouraged us both to do what we need for our health and families…and knowing neither of us have to worry about our jobs right now is an enormous relief!
  2. Keep perspective. Even though it can be difficult at times. Will it matter 10 years from now that you fed your kid fast food one night for dinner because you are going through a particularly stressful time and don’t have the energy to cook?  It’s OK, it really is.
  3. Practice self-compassion. In tough times, things will not be perfect. Stuff will fall by the wayside. Remember, it’s only temporary, and you don’t need to beat yourself up on top of everything else you are dealing with.  
  4. Accept (and ask for!) help.  If you’re anything like me, this is a difficult thing to do. I often have the attitude of “I can do it all!” Don’t go it alone.  Sure you may be capable, but this is not the time to test your super-human strength.  I’ve asked for friends to watch my daughter, took the dog to boarding (one less worry/responsibility) and even asked friends to bring meals so I didn’t have to be the one doing it all.  
  5. Remember yourself in the mix. Don’t forget about the basics of taking care of yourself: regular meals, water/hydration, exercise and rest. The old adage “you can’t pour from an empty cup” applies here.  

For those of you in a caregiver role, what other tips do you recommend to the village? Share your best tips with the group!