For the last three years, I slept with my iPhone under my pillow. If I was out somewhere with my kids and my battery was low, I battled with two teens for use of the back-up charger. In meetings, I kept my cell phone on the conference room table – a violation of company norms. Out to dinner with friends, I kept it on the table – a violation, in my old-fashioned opinion, of social norms. But I was a caregiver and I was on call.
November is National Family Caregiver Month, and this year’s theme, per the Caregiver Action Network, is “Caregiving Around the Clock.” And that’s exactly how caregivers operate: 24/7. Because even when they’re not providing hands-on care, they’re on duty. Their minds are going. The concern of caring is as much a part of the process as the physical tasks.
Those of us who work at desk jobs know that in order to work an 8-hour, 9 to 5 day, we require somewhere between 5 and 8 hours of sleep. For recovery and recharge, we may also need a couch day on the weekends, a good Netflix series for bingeing and a recommendation for an inexpensive chardonnay. Shift workers know a travel mug is key to keep a strong coffee hot from 7 to 3 or 3 to 11, and those who work in physically demanding jobs know the importance of a lifting belt and Epsom salts. So what kind of self-care is required for the caregiver who cares around the clock – and most likely also has a second, paying job? In honor of National Family Caregivers Month and this year’s Caregiving Around the Clock theme, we’ve created a kit for caregivers to practice Self-Care Around the Clock.
The 24/7 Self-Care Kit for Caregivers
6 a.m. An egg timer: First thing in the morning, after you start the coffee of course, set the timer for between 1 and 5 minutes, and list all of the things, big and small, you are grateful for. University of California Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons told WebMD, “Gratitude research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress.”
8 a.m. Tupperware: Before you leave the house, pack some healthy snacks. It’s going to be a long day, and you need good food to fuel you. If you’re not prepared you’ll be hitting the vending machine and trust me, Twizzlers and Diet Coke, are not self-care. May we recommend the Kate Spade Pretty Pantry Lunch Box?
10:30 a.m. A water bottle: Drinking water is the simplest thing you can do to take care of yourself. And it packs a huge punch. By helping blood to transport oxygen and other nutrients to your cells, water increases your energy levels. Stay hydrated!
Noon Your walking shoes: Move! A lunchtime work out may be a thing of the past (and the future!) but you still need to move. Keep a pair of old exercise shoes under your desk, in the trunk of your car and do some laps. Office stair wells, hospital parking lots, nearby parks – turn them into a temporary gym.
2 p.m. A meditation app: Learn to still your mind through meditation. Apps like Calm can help you ease into this practice. You only need to find 5 or 10 minutes to make an impact.
5 p.m. A great playlist: Blast some tunes as your driving from work to nursing home or from hospice to home. Neuroscientists have proven that listening to music increases the positive emotions people feel. May we suggest “The Working Daughter Playlist?”
7 p.m. A good book: Serious or funny, a good book can give you a break from your own thoughts. So whether you’re sitting bedside, collapsing on the couch, or waiting to pick the kids up from practice, why not give yourself a mini escape? Check out our list of 5 Good Books To Read In The Hospital (When You Are Not The Patient).
9 p.m. A journal: According to James Pennebaker, a University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher, journaling has a positive impact on physical well-being. It can strengthen your immune system and help you cope with stressful events because it helps you learn from your emotions.
11 p.m. A mirror: Pick up your mirror and look yourself right in the eye. Now tell yourself you did the best you could today. Because you did.
Throughout the month of November, come back to hear from guest contributors what a day in the life of a caregiver looks like for them.