Watch Yourself!

April 2, 2013

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-asian-family-image22657154Watch yourself!

I hung up the phone and whacked my planner shut.  I had just canceled a lunch with my best friend. There were just too many things I had to get done and something had to give somewhere.  I started to move on to the next thing when I decided to stop and pay attention to how frustrated and mad I was.

Mom was looking forward to a visit from me.  She lived an hour away, so round trip driving time added up to 2 hours.  I didn’t want her to feel rushed during our visit, so I had planned to stay a minimum of an hour.  OK, that’s 3 hours if all went as planned.  I mentally lined this up with the other things that had to get done that day.  Ach! My aging mother, full time job, marriage, grandchildren, house and yard were starting to feel overwhelming.

Helping your elder, while involved in other important aspects of your life, can create a cascade of effects on you.  Some of them are obvious and some sneak up on you.  The first step is to pay attention to how you are feeling.

  • Are you mad and frustrated like I was?
  • Are you having sleep problems, getting headaches, etc?
  • Are you chronically tired?
  • Is your life full of “shoulds”?
  • Do you feel guilty for not doing more?
  • Is the relaxation or fun factor in your life fading away?

Whoa! It’s time to take stock and make some changes. But where to start?

  1. Go to a neutral place where you have no responsibilities, like a restaurant or park.  This is important because it allows you to unplug and think more creatively.
  2. Have a tablet or computer to jot down ideas. You might need some time to clear your head before you start writing.  Some people can do this more easily by talking with a trusted friend who can take notes. Do what works for you.
  3. Make notes about what is bothering you, what you need more of and what you need less of in your life.  Make sure you put in things that you miss, such as lunch with a friend, exercise, music, reading, etc.
  4. Now start to think about how to change something in your life. Start with one thing, and it doesn’t have to be something big.  Example: I want to go for a walk three times a week .
  5. Think of ways your “change idea” can happen.  What on your schedule needs to get tweaked or who do you need to ask for help?  If you tend to be a very responsible hard worker, the most challenging part may be allowing yourself to take some tasks off your list. Sometimes a friend/loved one can help you to see options, such as getting prepared food from the grocery store, finding a way to get home from work earlier, or dividing up household responsibilities with other family members.

Don’t worry if you get stuck or if this process does not go smoothly at first. It will get easier with practice.

Oh, by the way, I canceled my visit with my mom that day and called her instead. I moved my visit to another less hectic day.  I asked my husband to pick up takeout for dinner and I took 10 minutes to sit and watch the sunset that evening.

Let us know what challenges you have had in attending to your elder, and how you have managed them.

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