Caregivers can be notorious self-neglecters. Do you often put yourself last because you don’t have the time or energy to tend to You?
Today I had to go to the dentist for a deep cleaning. A few weeks ago I was having a dental exam and it was the part of the hour when the hygienist calls out numbers that measure the health of the gums. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this process, a 1, 2, or a 3 is considered healthy gum tissue. A 4, 5, or 6 is not so good. I knew when I heard a few too many fives and my first six being called out that I was in trouble. I was very disappointed but not surprised when my hygienist said, “It’s time to do a deeeeeep cleaning.”
This morning I did the first of two procedures. It wasn’t the most fun thing I ever did but it wasn’t the most brutal thing either. Like many caregivers I’m pretty good at self neglect. So I wasn’t shocked to learn that the proverbial chickens had come home to roost in my mouth. I take decent care of my teeth but I could certainly do a better job. While I’m at it, I could do the knee exercises I’m supposed to do so I don’t end up having to undergo knee surgery anytime soon. Then there’s meditation to fit in…
Caregivers are multitasking experts. They can take care of one person or many people without dropping any balls for those people.
You need me to call the doctors office for you? No problem. At the same time while I’m planning out the menu for the day? No problem. While I’m running errands? No problem. After I’ve started a load of laundry? No problem. You get the picture.
Although I am not officially taking care of anybody on a full-time caregiving basis anymore, I do take care of three kids who live at home, a significant other who needs help with a few things, and an older friend who needs advocacy and rides to the doctor. I also run a full-time business. Like many of you, I wouldn’t change my role for the world. I’m happy to take care of my brood. But fitting in exercise and meditation are a challenge. I find it hard to get up to brush my teeth when I fall asleep after reading to a child or attempting a late night meditation, when I know I’m only going to get a few hours of sleep anyway.
A lot of caregivers have trouble finding time for themselves. Are you one of them?
As I am not walking the walk myself, I should hardly be the one to tell you you’ve got to take better care of yourself and expect anybody to listen to me. But it’s true and you know it. Think about yourself. How many areas of your life are you neglecting in order to take care of other people? Are you neglecting your dental health? Your diet? Your human need for sleep? Your soul? And it’s so easy to do! There are only so many hours in the day and you only have so much energy. But when it comes time to pay for that neglect, it’s really going to stink. These dental procedures didn’t cost me too much and I am motivated to try harder now. I’m lucky I haven’t needed more work. And the fear of that consequence is going to inspire me. But what are the consequences for not meditating? What are the consequences for not exercising? And when will I find out?
That’s what you have to ask yourself. What will be the consequences of your self-neglect? And are you willing to pay the price?
Have you ever seen those comics that circulating on social media that look like this:
You don’t want to be me and, honestly, I probably don’t want to be you either, because you’re probably not doing that much better of a job. But we’ve got to try.
For one week, just pick one area of your life where you think you can put forth a little bit more effort, where you think you can find just a little bit of time. For me right now it’s going to be taking better care of my teeth. I’m going to keep an extra toothbrush in my night table drawer along with a disposable flutter. For those nights when I just cannot bear to get up because I’m so tired, I can at least reach over and take care of my teeth. Yes, it’s incredibly lazy but if it accomplishes the mission then that’s good. Next week I’ll try harder to do the exercises that I’m supposed to do for my knees. They really don’t take that long. I just need to care enough. Pain, surgery, and a high deductible should be enough of a motivation. But that’s next week.
The question is what are YOU going to do?
You know it isn’t a good idea to sacrifice yourself. You know the person that you are taking care of would never ask that of you. You have to love yourself enough to try harder. I’d love to hear from you what areas you need to work on and how your progress is going.
Come on caregivers, we can do better. We owe ourselves.