Being responsible for the care of another person is one of the most arduous roads to travel. You easily can find yourself stuck in a caregiving rut, as there is very little time and energy left after administering medicines, preparing or delivering meals, bathing, dressing, transporting to and from appointments, being a medical advocate and managing finances, not to mention doing chores, observing behavioral and physical changes, etc. Meanwhile, you still must balance your own job, household and other responsibilities. The immense pressure can suck all the energy and joy from life if you let it.
Don’t allow yourself to become emotionally drained; you can find joy in the journey. It is rewarding to see the smiles on the faces of those you care for, to hear the “thank yous” and to know you have helped in ways they could not help themselves.
As time-consuming and energy-taxing as my caregiving journey can be, I try to stay engaged in other things to prevent losing myself in caregiving. Staying engaged also allows me to see the joy in the journey.
I am passionate about helping others find solutions. I also enjoy being involved in organizations and projects that provide opportunities for giving that align with my passions and desire for fulfillment. These opportunities usually come with commitments to meetings and planning and organizing events. The commitments may leave me exhausted, yet also feeling accomplished. That feeling helps bring balance to my life when I don’t overdo it.
I encourage all caregivers to find joy in the journey by identifying ways to feed their passions and commit time to things that provide fulfillment. Doing this can provide solace and enjoyment on a difficult journey.
For me, finding joy includes staying mentally rested and maintaining balance among my caregiving, professional and personal roles. If I’m overly engaged, I can’t provide the quality care I desire to my parents. Becoming a master of what I call “the great balancing act” includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Being intentional about carving out time for myself so I can be emotionally fit for the journey. When my mind is cluttered and I am physically fatigued, I become irritable and impatient. I also become a one-dimensional thinker instead of considering things beyond those that are visible to me at the time.
- Prioritize relationships and commitments by keeping an electronic calendar that you can access anywhere at any time; make sure to set reminder notifications. I’ve also learned to be selective about what I add to my calendar.
- Just because someone asks doesn’t mean I must say “yes.” I’ve not mastered the art of saying “no,” but I’m working on it.
- Avoid giving time and energy to causes or individuals that don’t fulfill you or value your time.
- Allow others to help. I find this one very difficult because I am a giver and a fixer. Allowing others to help can bless me, the giver and my parents.
- Surround yourself with people who keep it real. Sometimes we need those who care about us to tell us we are off balance or trying to do too much; this feedback helps keep us in sync. Maintaining a circle of friends who only feed your ego instead of occasionally “pulling your coattail” to tell you to sit down fosters imbalance and serves you no purpose.
As we begin the busy holiday season, please commit to finding balance and joy in the journey.