As primary caregiver for someone with bipolar, I’ve found it easy to put my needs on hold…sometimes for long periods of time… in favor of who I care for.
The squeaky wheel usually gets the oil. Or the attention. Or the remote control. As caregivers, we’re a pretty quiet bunch when it comes to our own needs…saving most of our energy for those battles that are an unavoidable part of life, whether it be with the medical insurance company or the very person we advocate for.
I’ve often heard advice that my caregiving would be more effective if I took time for myself. This is easier said than done. Energy can be in short supply when everyday life is filled to the brink with intense emotion. Finding a way to maintain balance is no easy feat. I don’t care what anyone says.
What works for some may not work for others….but here are strategies for staying sane that work well for me:
Sometimes you need to pull a one-eighty; finding an enjoyable pastime completely unrelated to anything you do in “required” life. It can be incredibly freeing. Whether it’s writing (about something unrelated to your everyday challenges), or painting, or becoming the world’s greatest badminton player….you need something enjoyable to give you respite.
Seriously….who doesn’t feel better after a good laugh? I’m a huge believer in finding humor in everyday things. Yes, this means I have to earnestly look for it some days, but I make it my business to flush it out. You can usually find at least one funny (or ironic) thing a day…and if you can’t, then find a comedy on television or some stand up. Sometimes, you don’t realize how long it’s been since you’ve laughed until you do.
Let it Out
The other end of the spectrum…never underestimate the value of a good, solid cry. It can be a major stress-reliever. Like a cleansing thunderstorm on a steamy summer day, it leaves everything washed anew…a little droopy from that soaking, but none the worse for wear.
Get Your Z’s
Sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on your ability to cope. I also realize how difficult it can be to find that peaceful mental hammock with which to drift off into dreamland…but find it you must, if you want to maintain any kind of sanity. Whether you need to learn the art of meditation, increase your exercise regime, or take a quick trip to the pharmacy for something to help with sleep, it’s crucial that you get enough of it.
You’ve heard the adage that “time heals all wounds”? Well, it also works wonders with calming anxiety and helping you to figure out some of your more challenging issues. Sometimes, all you need is a little time…whether it’s a night’s sleep or a self-rewarded “mental health day”. I’m often surprised how differently I can see the same issue a mere 24 hours after it initially surfaced. My ability to cope with things sometimes just needs a bit of downtime to regroup and reboot.
By following some (or all) of the above suggestions, I believe we can do a better job of caring for those we love. Only by letting go of the notion of it being selfish can we fully understand that it allows us to give the best part of ourselves…and still have something left over to call our own.
It’s a win/win.