Listen to What Your Body Needs
Last updated: March 2023
Spending a wealth of your time caring for someone else, perhaps multiple others takes a lot out of you as a person. Your own needs go to the back burner while others' necessities come to the forefront.
Other contributors and I have stressed the value and importance of making time to care for yourself in order to take care of your loved ones.
The results of not doing so can be quite stunning, such as the rapidly deteriorating health of the caregiver. The CDC explicitly states: "Family caregivers of people with Alzheimer's and related dementias are at greater risk for anxiety, depression, and poorer quality of life than caregivers of people with other conditions." 1
Easier said to take time for oneself than done, right? I thought it may be helpful to highlight some ways to get in touch with yourself, to identify what it is you actually need in order to make the most of those short periods of time that you may have for yourself amid the endless tasks of caring for others. Here's what I found.
The best way to get in touch and identify what your body needs at the moment is going to be to sit in silence and allow it to tell you what it needs. It takes some practice to be able to quiet the mind, pivoting it from your endless to-do list and nagging thoughts about your loved ones. However, if you can set a timer for 10 minutes regularly where you are able to visualize stillness, you may be able to get to that quiet where you can see and hear what your body needs.
What exactly do I mean by listening to what your body needs? Excellent question. In those moments when you're able to quiet the mind, focus the light on your own self, and away from the competing needs of others, you may find your body stiff. Let's take mom out for a walk and meet both of our needs. Perhaps in those 10 minutes of meditation, you wake up snoring. Give yourself the ability to take that nap, rest, recharge, and go about your day refreshed.
There is a meme that I think back on in times like this, "Be sure to drink water and get sunlight today. You're basically a glorified house plant." It's simple and direct: You need some basic things to survive and thrive, and your body intuitively knows those things. In times of significant stress, it's your mind's job to get out of your body's way and allow yourself to provide for what you need.
Cut through the noise
It's always on a day that I'm flustered that I spill water all over my desk. Or it's a day that I have planned down to the minute that I lock my keys in my house. Or it's a day when I'm raving mad that my toast falls, face down, on my way to the table for breakfast. While my first instinct is to slam that plate down into a million pieces and yell expletives until the mess is magically gone and everything is right with the world again — it's, in fact, only when I take a deep breath, tell myself to slow down, and gently calm the rage monster inside of me, that I can then get done one thing a time. In doing so, I have just changed the course of my day: By giving myself what I need in that moment.
I hope you can find a way to provide yourself with what you need in your next moment.
Have you or your loved one been diagnosed with Mild cognitive impairment?