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THE IMPORTANCE OF TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF AS A CARETAKER

Story By: Meriam Boldewijn

If you had asked me 20 years ago if it was possible to live a balanced life while caring for others, I would have said NO WAY! 

I had to learn my lessons the hard way. I didn’t how to reduce stress and let go of the guilt and shame that I sometimes put myself first. 

Many of us get lost at looking after the ones we love. We are on the mission, determined, dedicated, devoted. And many of us forget to look after ourselves in that devotion. It’s understandable that we don’t know that we forget ourselves. I was there once, and all I have to say is that it is critical to get things right from the beginning of your caregiver’s journey. Some of us (raise your hand if you are one of them) do not schedule, organize, or practice self-care. We don’t know where to begin, and as a result, we become overwhelmed. 

One of my biggest mistakes I made years ago is that I spent 95% of my time caring for my husband Martin, and when I finally had the courage to do something I enjoy, I felt guilty. I didn’t make time for something I enjoyed! 

Not only that, but I was also a people pleaser. I tried to be there for everyone when they needed me, and I ended up saying yes to more people, my loved ones included, than I could handle. I had far too much on my plate. I really wanted to connect, and I was always thinking about how I could help others. I did it again and again and finally, I couldn’t help anyone because my cup was empty.

And because I was a people pleaser, I didn’t have the courage to set boundaries and say “NO” to others, especially my loved ones. I couldn’t tell people what to expect from me or when they could expect it. From my end, there was no clarity. How about you: do you set boundaries?

I did not know how to own my well-being as a caregiver!

Self-care is one of the techniques that helped me. Starting with practicing self-care wasn’t easy because I needed to change my mindset first. Here are 5 mindset shifts I had to make:

Impossible  I’m Possible 

Choosing the right perspective is a component of the mindset. I’d like to ask you to suspend any doubts you have about what you’re capable of, what you deserve, and what you’re worthy of. We often believe that many ideas are impossible. We are able to consider possibilities if we suspend negative beliefs. Please consider possibilities so that your brain does not automatically shut down information that could help you in the future. Allow yourself to see possibilities and seize opportunities. If there’s a possibility for you to have a 5-minute break, seize the opportunity and e.g dance to your favorite music.

Super (S)hero Cape On  Asking and accepting help 

I cleaned Martin’s ulcer under his foot several times per day. Before I could do this, I had to ask help and seek assistance from the hospital’s medical staff. I needed to understand the do’s and don’ts. I chose to do it myself because driving daily to the hospital would consume too much of my precious time. I could do something for me instead and took advantage of the opportunity to practice self-care. The result was that I felt more at ease. How do you feel knowing that if you ask for help, you will feel better?

It may sound cliche, but we can’t do it all on our own. We are one question away from asking family, friends, medical professionals, church members, neighbors, your insurance company or someone else in our community for help. Have you ever thought that asking for help connects you with others and increases your productivity?

Remember everything  Schedule & Organize

How do you feel about remembering all your appointments, dates, and times? Are you disorganized and overwhelmed? Scheduling enables you to prioritize your tasks as well as yourself! Set aside time for self-care. What thoughts come to mind when you realize that if you plan ahead, you can own your well-being? I recommend beginning with a paper calendar because seeing it makes you more likely to complete the task and avoid procrastination. One significant benefit of scheduling is that you will be more organized and relieved, which will lead to ease and relaxation.

Fill the cup of others  Take care of your vessel too 

Pay attention to your body. Have you ever caught yourself saying, “I’m tired, I need to rest.” Consider being able to tune in to and respond to your body before you get to that point. Making yourself a priority by listening to the whispers from within, I discovered, is not a sign of egoism. My life quality improved as a result of reviving my energy. When I was in a state of personal and emotional well-being, I could breathe easier and help others. Self-care reduces stress, and how would you feel knowing that you will be a better caregiver if you practice self-care?

Isolate  Socialize 

Nobody wants to feel alone, and I’m sure you’re aware of that. When we are overwhelmed, it is easy to decline an invitation to socialize, such as going out for dinner, a drink, or simply hanging out. To be occupied with something other than caregiving, socializing (virtual or in-person) is required. Not only that, but we learn new things from others as well. Did you know that socializing boosts your happiness and well-being and may even help you live a longer life?

These 5 mindset shifts will be beneficial to you before you engage in self-care. I invite you to check out the free resources on my website: https://meriamboldewijn.com/free-resources

Until I burnt out, I thought self-care was mind-numbing on a yoga mat, a day at the spa, or sipping a prosecco. I was so wrong!

Self-care is doing something YOU enjoy; something that makes you feel good and relaxed. Whatever you decide, be present and take a break from caregiving for a while. 

It took me a long time to incorporate self-care into my daily life, and I had good days and bad days. But I didn’t give up and continued investing in myself. I taught myself how to revitalize my energy by using the mindset shifts and practicing self-care.

​I had to learn my lessons the hard way and I dragged myself out of a dark place called burnout and gradually transformed into a Caregiver 2.0! 

Today, I stand on those lessons, and I have the privilege and pleasure of guiding others through the journey of being a caregiver and catching them before they fall.

If you need someone to guide you, I invite you to connect with me via: https://linktr.ee/meriamboldewijn

You are worthy of a wonderful life too!

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