In my last post, I talked about the fact that looking after an elderly person does not follow a specific time schedule. You have no idea when your job as caregiver is going to end. It could end tonight or it could end 10 years from now. Knowing this, it makes living in a perpetual state of anticipatory grief impossible since you would burn out faster than a candle in a hurricane. Living in the middle of the “long haul” requires a much gentler, less intense way of existing. It requires a lot of self-care – something I have never been good at. As I thought about my last post, I knew I had to have a plan in place as to how I was going to navigate the “long haul” sort of like a plan someone running a marathon would do. I had some ideas of my own which I will comment on here but I also came across an excellent magazine put out by Prevention Magazine called “The Essential Guide to Self Care” I have been given lots of material on self care and read some books but I really like this simple guide put out by Prevention Magazine. I will be quoting from it periodically during this blog and in blogs to come. So here is my own “essential guide” on how to get through the next few days, weeks or years as I continue to look after Mom in the nursing home.
- Try to stay as much in the present instead of dwelling in the past or anticipating the future. Staying in the present helps greatly with feelings of guilt and regret over things of the past. It also prevents you from getting highly anxious about what is going to happen in the future. Yes, it is good to plan and have contingency plans in place but beyond that you just worry and fret and increase your stress level. It takes discipline to stay in the present. Our mind easily wanders to what ifs and should haves. One thing that helps me is my faith. Part of the Lord’s prayer says, ” Give us today our daily bread” That means deal only with what you have to for today and God will take care of the rest. He will give you what you need to do all that you need today. That is all you need to worry about. Staying in the present also helps me not to ruminate over things so much. Being autistic, I easily ruminate over and over about things in the past or things that are going to happen or might happen. It can drive me crazy like a broken record stuck in a groove.
- I bought a weighted blanket for myself. With the fibromyalgia pain getting worse and worse and my sleep not good, I had heard that a weighted blanket might help. I am pleased to say that just after 4 days, I am loving this blanket. I am sleeping much better. My pain is less and even my restless legs at night are better. I don’t know whether it is all in my head but I will take anything I can get right now. I have it on me now as I write this and it is so soothing. I often used weighted vests, blankets etc when I worked with autistic children with favourable results so I thought since I am an autistic adult it might just help relieve some of the daily stress. I think it is working.
- I am starting a travel savings account. My account is basically a jar to put my spare change and whatever I can afford to put in it as the weeks go by. I really really want to go out west and I also really really want to take a bus tour of Newfoundland (I live in Canada). Somehow having a positive goal to see happen down the road helps soften the inevitable event I so dread – the passing of my Mom. It gives me something to keep going for after she passes.
- Take up a new hobby or restart one you have done in the past. For the past number of years while looking after Mom in my home, I neglected most of my former relaxing pastimes. I stopped doing my greeting card business, I stopped knitting and sewing. I stopped painting. I stopped doing most everything creative. I was totally into survival mode. Now that Mom is in a nursing home I still visit her almost every day but I have a little more time to reinvest in some ME time. I thrive on creating. I love any type of craft work and creating for me is like taking gulps of fresh air out in the middle of the pristine woods. It’s life lived in abundance and joy. I had lost that totally. This past few months, I have taken a mitten knitting course, a quilting course, and in the fall I hope to do a rug hooking course. I am doing some sewing again and I hope to do some creative patchwork on jeans. I would also like to get a ton of Christmas cards done to sell in a craft show near Christmas time. I have oodles of plans but as of yet I do not have the energy to carry them out. I hope that will change as I change my attitude toward “the Long Haul” and my stress levels decrease.
- Another thing that has been absent from my life as I focused solely on grief was reading. I could not read, not even a magazine. I am happy to report that since I have taken my eyes off grief I have been able to read again – even fiction. I have joined two book clubs which keeps me busy. And of course working in a library is always a dangerous occupation when it comes to making my way out of the library at the end of a shift without at least two or three new books to add to the ever higher pile of library books already at home. My goal for this “Long Haul”??? Just to read, read, read!!!!! Oh, and NO grief books right now. Funny books, interesting books, cook books, children’s books, biographies, new autism books and christian books. And lots of magazines, I LOVE magazines.
So these are only a few of the goals I plan to have as I manouver through the “Long Haul”. Stay tuned for further blogs on my goals to reduce stress, enhance joy and peace as I take on this marathon and make life enjoyable once again.