The Caregiver Solution to New Year’s Resolutions

By on January 4, 2014
large time clock

By  Sherri Snelling –

One of the things I hate about New Year’s Resolutions is they seem to be about taking away something rather than giving yourself something.  I suppose one could argue if you lose weight with more exercise and eating more nutritiously you are giving yourself a longer, healthier life.  But when our brains think it is more punishment than pleasure it’s hard to maintain these resolutions.  Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire in England, author of :59 Seconds and creative consultant to the TV show The Mentalist, says those who fail to keep their resolution have one common pitfall which is focusing on the downside of the goal. You suppress your cravings, fantasize about being successful, adopt a role model or rely on willpower alone. But these aren’t pleasurable experiences, they are torture and you will soon abandon them. He stated in an interview with The Guardian, “Failing to achieve your ambitions is often psychologically harmful because it can rob people of a sense of self control.”

For caregivers, resolutions are even harder especially since you are typically juggling many of life’s balls – children, career and caregiving – and the ball getting dropped is the one that says “self-care.” Adding one more thing to your To Do List in 2013 is enough to make you cry (or scream, or throw something or grab that pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream that makes you feel better, until you step on the scale).  There is hope.

Here is my solution for caregivers to those daunting New Year’s Resolutions.  Let’s re-wire our brains to think “what am I giving myself” instead of “what am I not going to give myself.”  This year, you are going to give yourself a gift – that’s right – no cutting back, no cutting out and no cutting corners. If you follow these steps, you will not only improve your physical health but your mental health and that is a resolution worth celebrating.  You are going to take the remote control of your life back.

The Me Time Monday Reality Show (52 Episodes)

When you become a caregiver, you often feel like you entered one of today’s popular reality TV programs – it is like Survivor and The Amazing Race all at once. Instead of frantically looking for clues, or worrying about what the tribe will say  let’s call your 2013 reality show Me Time Monday and there are 52 episodes (one each Monday).

What is Me Time?

If you are asking, “What is Me Time?” then we really have to do an extreme makeover on you. Me Time is a concept that has been written about by CNN, Forbes, WebMD, BeWell.org and advocated by many of the self-help gurus and health professionals I admire such as Dr. Oz, Louise Hay, Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Alice Domar. It is the essence of self-care which is the balance you need when you are caregiving.

Me Time is how you define it. First of all, you need to make a list of all the things you love to do that are just for you. These are probably things you have abandoned or at least don’t get to as frequently if you are caregiving. It helps to think about things you loved to do as a kid (bike riding, hopscotch), or activities you enjoyed when you had no pressing responsibilities (such as kids, a job, a husband or a loved one to care for).  Your Me Time may be gardening, reading a good book or magazine, painting or sculpting, getting a mani/pedi, going for a scenic drive or perhaps it is hula hooping like First Lady Michelle Obama. Make sure you only list things you love that are just for you – if you wrote down exercise but it’s something you feel you have to do rather than love to do, it’s NOT Me Time.

Why Monday?

Monday is part of our cultural DNA – for most of us, it is the start of the work week, the school week and we feel renewed energy to start something after a nice weekend break. The nonprofit Monday Campaigns was founded in 2005 in association with Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University and Syracuse

University in order to apply marketing best practices to public health challenges. According to the research, the Monday Campaigns show a projected 74 percent of American adults over age 25 believe giving healthy intentions a Monday start will make them more lasting throughout the week. Part of The Monday Campaigns is Caregiver Monday, a specific campaign targeted to helping the nation’s caregivers take care of themselves.

“Day in and day out, millions of caregivers give so much of themselves caring for their loved ones that they often neglect their own health and well-being,” says Sid Lerner, founder and chairman, The Monday Campaigns. “Caregiver Monday encourages them to use that first day of each hectic week as their recharge day, to refocus on their own condition to better serve their dependent parent, child or spouse.”

How to “Make It Work”

The famous saying by Tim Gunn on the Project Runway reality show works for your Me Time Monday reality show as well.  Think about the following:

  1. Write it down.  Put your Me Time Monday activity on sticky notes. Post these notes on your refrigerator, your bathroom mirror, in your wallet, on your smartphone, on your car dashboard – anywhere you will see the words every day.  These are love notes to yourself.
  2. Take baby steps. If your Me Time is taking a 30-minute walk to enjoy nature and outdoors (a great stress reliever), start with buying new walking shoes on your first Monday (it’s all about the shopping for me).  The following week it may be getting just a few minutes to walk around the block – you don’t have to achieve 30 minutes on Week 1 – just get started.  Once you get in the groove you will find you plan your Me Time because of the comfort it brings you.  If you miss a week – don’t beat yourself up.  Evaluate what derailed you and see if you can eliminate the obstacle the next week.  What’s great about Me Time Monday – you have 52 chances to stay on track! And you don’t have to do your activity on Monday – just use Monday as your “check in” point for the week – do you know what you are going to do and how to find that time?
  3. Track your progress. Put a little heart on your weekly calendar when you do your Me Time or tell a friend who can be your cheerleader about your plan and let them applaud your weekly progress (and help give you a caregiving break so you can get your Me Time – see Lotsa Helping Hands as a great way caregivers can get help to get a break).  Getting reinforcement – whether through a friend or seeing a lot of hearts on your calendar will keep you motivated.
  4. Live in the moment. When you are practicing your Me Time take a few minutes to really feel it. Close your eyes and put your imaginary remote control on “Pause.”  Feel everything around you. Stop and try to use each of your senses in what you are doing.  Can you see yourself happier?  Do your shoulders relax? Do you feel a little more refreshed? Do you hear the sounds around you?  Do you smell the wonders of your environment? Do you feel re-energized so you can keep caring for everyone around you because you took a little Me Time? Sensory cataloguing is a great way to revisit your Me Time and re-wire your brain to crave that Me Time so it becomes essential to your well-being.

Now push “Play” on your imaginary remote control and let your Me Time Monday reality show begin!

To view the Me Time Monday videos including how celebrities find their Me Time (to be posted Jan 14) – visit our Caregiving Club YouTube channel.

Note:  This blog is adapted from A Cast of Caregivers – Celebrity Stories to Help You Prepare to Care by Sherri Snelling (Balboa Press, Feb 2013).

©2013 Sherri Snelling

Sherri Snelling, CEO and founder of the Caregiving Club, is a nationally recognized expert on America’s 65 million family caregivers with special emphasis on how to help caregivers balance “self care” while caring for a loved one.  She is the former chairman of the National Alliance for Caregiving and her book, A Cast of Caregivers – Celebrity Stories to Help You Prepare to Care will be published by Balboa Press, division of Hay House Publishing in February, 2013.  You can find more information at:  www.caregivingclub.com.

About Sherri Snelling

Sherri Snelling, CEO and founder of the Caregiving Club, is a nationally recognized expert on America’s 65 million family caregivers with special emphasis on how to help caregivers balance “self care” while caring for a loved one. She is executive producer and host of a new caregiving TV series, Handle with Care on RLTV and co-producer of the Silvers Summit at the annual Consumer Electronics Show. Sherri is a consultant, media contributor, and frequent guest speaker on the nation’s Baby Boomers and their caregiving role as the “The Sandwich Generation.” Website: www.caregivingclub.com

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The Caregiver Solution to New Year’s Resolutions