It is officially the new year! This means everyone has a fresh start and can focus on the goals they would like to accomplish in the year ahead. As a parent or caregiver of a person with epilepsy, you likely put the needs of others before your own. However, that does not mean you should avoid making at least one resolution for yourself in 2023.
Caregivers who focus on their own wellbeing are less likely to experience burnout. Need some ideas on where to start when setting your goals? We have suggestions that can help you create a personal resolution that sticks this year.
New Year's Resolutions
Time Out: Take Short Breaks
Taking a “time out” is something you might have been introduced to as child. A time out is a short break that helps manage emotions when something gets the best of us. As an adult, taking a time out may seem silly. But it can be a great way to pause and reflect when you’re feeling upset about something. Maybe your child’s doctor appointment was rescheduled, or the line at the pharmacy to pick up anti-seizure medication was long and now you’re running late. Other, lower stakes inconveniences can make us stressed throughout the day as well.
When you sense that your emotions are getting the best of you, give yourself time to stop and think about why you’re feeling stressed. If the loved one you care for needs supervision, stay with them while you reflect. If you can walk away for a few minutes, or if someone else can supervise, ask them to take over.
Once you feel comfortable, set a timer. Keep it short – one to five minutes is all you need. During this time out, close your eyes (if you feel comfortable doing so) and focus on your breathing. Visualize something positive or an activity you’re looking forward to doing with your loved one. When your timer rings, take a quick pause, and then go back to your normal routine.
We encourage you to incorporate “time outs” or short breaks in your schedule before you start to feel overwhelmed. Getting ahead of your stress before it appears will help keep your batteries charged.
Know When to Say No
No is a tough word for many people, especially caregivers. It is only natural to want to please everyone around us. Still, being a caregiver requires extra time and energy. By saying yes to every request that comes your way, you will quickly experience caregiver overload.
Select one or two activities a week that you feel you can manage outside of your daily schedule. Preferably, make sure they are short and that they will not conflict with anything that you often do with your loved one. When someone invites you somewhere and you feel you have to go out of obligation, now is the time to say no. Do not add anything to your plate that might put you in a stressful position.
Doing everything for everyone will only lead to unmanageable expectations. It is better to be honest about what you can handle than trying to accommodate everyone else’s needs. Also remember that no is a complete sentence. You do not need to offer an explanation when something doesn’t work for you. As a caregiver, you are an excellent advocate for your loved one. Make sure you are an excellent advocate for yourself as well.
Keep A Journal
Helping your loved one handle epilepsy and seizures is never an easy task. You may have emotions about it that you do not wish to share with everyone, and that is okay.
Journaling is a common way to put your feelings down quickly onto a piece of paper. You don’t need fancy pens, paper, or devices to do it, and the exercise of journaling can be as long or as short as you want it to be.
If you need help getting started, ask yourself simple questions. What are your goals for the day, week, or month? What are the challenges you are facing as a caregiver? What is one thing you are looking forward to doing with your friends or family? What is something you need help with? What do you feel comfortable sharing with someone else?
You can start by adding a journaling session into your routine slowly by writing for a brief time once a week. If you find that this exercise is helpful to you, try 2-3 times a week for a bit longer if you have time in your schedule.
No matter what resolution you make in 2023, do not put too much pressure on yourself to make that resolution perfect. Being a caregiver can be unpredictable, so start simple when thinking about self-care. When you start small, you can always work up to something bigger if your time and energy allows. Self-care tips are available everywhere but making sure they fit with your personal lifestyle is the key to successfully staying true to your goal.