Care PARTner Health Tips
Being healthy is MORE than what you put on your plate.
Abbe Simon, M.A, CCC-SLP, IHC
When you became a care PARTner, did you receive piles of pamphlets, lectures from friends, or spend time researching how to improve the life of the person for whom you are caring? Did all the new information cause you to feel like someone else’s health depended on you? Perhaps you were given instructions about diet changes, increasing physical activity, or being sure the “receiver” of your care stopped drinking and smoking. Wow, that is a lot of pressure isn’t it? Being a care PARTner is hard. Care PARTners need care too.
People don’t necessarily plan on becoming a care PARTner. It is a role that often happens in an instant when someone you know suffers from a sudden medical diagnosis and requires care. In response, there may be hectic decision making, disorganization, stress, overwhelm, or anxiety about how everyone’s life will change. First and foremost, the attention goes to the “receiver” of care. We ask questions regarding their needs for medication management, transportation, mental health, socialization, sleep, shopping, medical appointments, and more. Wow, that is a lot of pressure isn’t it? Being a care PARTner is hard. Care PARTners need care too.
Let me say that being a care PARTner is also a gift. You have been entrusted with someone else’s wellbeing who is likely very grateful for you. And whether you were forced into the role or chosen to be, it can be gratifying to know you have an impact on someone else. While hearing words of appreciation and affirmation may be fleeting, care PARTners must be assured of their value and worth. But what happens when those feelings are hard to find and a care PARTner becomes frustrated, resentful, withdrawn, or unhealthy?
As an integrative health and wellness coach for care PARTners, I stress that being a care PARTner is only PART of who you are. A care PARTner cannot only GIVE. Care PARtners must RECEIVE. When this balance is off, a care PARTner’s health and wellness can become compromised. When anyone puts their self care aside, they jeopardize their health. And if a care PARTner becomes unwell, they will be less likely to provide optimal care. Too often, care PARTners ignore this shift or rationalize it by prioritizing the “receivers” needs. They may find excuses to neglect PARTs of their own life that they cannot “fit in” or handle while caring for someone else. When this happens and persists, care PARTners may develop stress or care PARTner burnout. Guess what? There are ways to avoid this. Maintaining a care PARTner’s health and wellness is important for themselves and for whom they care.
Health goes beyond the plate.
When people talk about health, the immediate thought is typically about nutrition. While making healthy food choices is important, so too is mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Listed below are less obvious, but just as influential ways to improve YOUR health and wellness.
- REST: Really Enjoy Some Time alone. Whether you are in a deep sleep or simply closing your eyes and keeping your body still allows your nervous system to settle and reset. Do this REST with no one able to disturb you. (I often provide my clients with a doorknob sign!)
- MOVEMENT MATTERS (MM): I don’t suggest that all care PARTners designate an hour a day to train for a race or take a yoga class. I insist that ANY kind of body movement apart from the labor you provide as a care PARTner, happens every day for at least 15 minutes. You can include the receiver in this MM and modify it accordingly. Movement can mean stretching, dancing, boating, biking, or even squatting in place. Okay…..vacuuming can count but wouldn’t a walk outside feel even better?
- CREATE and DISCOVER: We’ve heard of how important it is to keep our brains active and stimulated. No one is too old to learn something new. Being creative can mean reading something you would not normally choose, writing a handwritten letter and sending it in the real mail. – is there a friend or family member you haven’t spoken to in a while? Can you think of a creative way to contact them? Does the thought of taking a…dance or martial arts class tempt you? What about picking up a pen or paints and sketching the first things that come to mind. ART is healing even if you are not an artist. SING out loud.
- CONNECT: Relationships matter. It is important that you connect with people EVERY day who are outside of the space where you care. It is important to impress upon the receiver that you value the relationships you have in your life and cannot ignore them. Being able to CONNECT with other people who are carers in the form of a support group might feel comforting for some. Even when you are out doing errands, smiling at a stranger is a way to connect. Social connections are positive contributors to health.
- LAUGH and LOVE: Make time to surround yourself with something that puts a smile on your face or makes you laugh out loud. A deep belly laugh increases endorphins and stimulates your heart and lungs. Be with people or things you love. This can include all time favorite movies, shows, music, people, looking at old photos, gardening, or ordering from your favorite restaurant.
- SAY “YES” : Remember when we were told to “Just say NO”? Care PARTners need to say “YES” when people offer to share the care, provide some respite, or invite you to join them for an outing. It is likely that as soon as you became a care PARTner, people showed up to help, made a casserole, or offered to pick up something for you. Once you’ve established a routine and shared how “well” you are doing, people might stop asking because they “think” you’ve got it all by yourself. Finding more ways to say “YES” will afford care PARTners the opportunity to outsource, reduce burden, find time for self care, and achieve a healthier balance.
- ENJOY your ENVIRONMENT: This does not have to do with persevering the planet (though recycling is an excellent idea) but rather recognizing that the place you spend most of your time should be pleasing and bring you joy. Are there too many odds and ends filling the walls or shelves around you? Could some new pillows brighten up the room? Do the rooms make you happy or are you bored of seeing the same thing? Small changes in your environment can spark emotions that lift you up.
- ADMIT and ACKNOWLEDGE: Your feelings matter. Your identity matters. When a care PARTner denies or covers up their positive or negative emotions, communication is compromised. Admitting your feelings can be in the form of writing in a journal or sharing them with someone else. When emotions are bottled up, there is potential for them to be transferred and expressed inappropriately. This includes being able to share positive and negative feelings because some care PARTners struggle with both. It might feel awkward or tense to reveal your feelings to the person you are caring for. When a calm moment is established, having a discussion can be extremely freeing and healthy. Mental health professionals are options for people who seek objective support.
- FOOD is FUEL: I cannot end my list without mentioning the importance of making wise decisions when it comes to choosing the food you eat. While my coaching programs do not focus on diets, it is essential to find moderation between the foods that you crave, forbid, and need. Food is a way to connect with others, make yourself feel good, and be healthy. It is all about balance.
If you have any questions or interest in learning more do not hesitate to reach out. I’m just a discovery call away….
Instagram @icommunicare for more tips!