Being a caregiver of a loved one, part of the sandwich generation taking care of a family member who has a chronic or debilitating disease can take a toll on you physically and emotionally especially when it comes to your joy.
During this season in your life, at times it may feel as if you’re robotic as you move through your day to day responsibilities of caring for a loved one. It may feel as if you have forgotten what makes your heart sing with joy. And you may even suppress it out of guilt. Infusing joy and laughter back into your life though will help you better deal with the stress of being a caregiver. Laughter specifically strengthens your immune system and releases certain 'feel good” endorphins.
Here are some tips to help you add more joy to your life as a caregiver.
Create a joyful journal. Journaling is a safe place to write our innermost thoughts. It can serve as therapy for caregivers to write about the challenges, difficulties and darkest times as we take care of a loved one. Still you should not want to dwell in those moments because that is not the sum total of your life. Your life even during those rough patches has large slivers of joy in it. You just may have to hone into it. Have a separate journal to write about those times. A joyous or funny memory of your loved one, a joyous event that happened in the world, some upbeat lyrics to a song you love, or an inspirational quote.
Write a joyful mantra to post on your computer or refrigerator to say each morning. Mantra’s can encourage you to stay positive and in a joyous mood during those times when you are feeling low spirited.
Celebrate. Find ways to celebrate. Buy flowers, treat yourself to an “Off day” by getting friends and family on board so that you can have date night with your spouse, or a spa day or a day out golfing. Buy something inexpensive for yourself like a coffee mug or t-shirt with a humorous or quirky saying.
Eat joyously. As caretakers we tend to eat rushed, less nutritious foods or skip meals. You can eat joyously by eating the rainbow, a bounty of fruits and vegetables that are rainbow colored – green, yellow, orange, red, blue and purple, and white can will give you essential nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals.
Exercise always boots your mood. Although it may be difficult to find time to exercise as a caretaker it is essential self-care for your well-being. Even if you can’t go to a fitness center you can take walks if you can get a friend or another family member to watch your loved one. You can also put on an exercise DVD to do at home or put on music and dance.
Surround yourself with happy, vibrant friends. Being around people who are living a full life and doing fun creative things will have a positive affect on you even if you’ve had to put some of your own dreams on hold momentarily. Their boundless spirits can fuel yours when you’re overwhelmed and you’ve lost sight of yourself.
Be joyous around your loved one. Even if your loved one isn’t responsive talk joyously to him or her. Recall funny memories of past times, tell jokes, put on a comical or inspirational movie or sitcom for your loved one. Your loved one is much more than the disease he or she has and you are so much more than a caretaker.
Cultivate gratitude. Many research studies have shown that gratitude is associated with greater happiness. As caretakers you may feel hard-pressed to feel grateful during this time in your life as you care for an incapacitated loved one. “Why did this happen to our family?” “It’s so hard seeing my father this way, he was such a proud man who never wanted anyone to do anything for him.” In the midst of caretaking you have to purposely look for things, occasions, and signs to counter those emotions so they won’t weigh you down. Start by being grateful each day for a supportive spouse, friends, family, nurses, doctors, and others that have held your hand throughout this journey.
CONTENT CREDIT: Today's Caregiver