As the new year begins, many of us are running on empty from caring for elderly and aging or disabled family members over the holidays. It was most likely a challenging but rewarding time with family and friends. Now, however, is a moment to adjust your sails for cruising into the new year. Below, you’ll find several practical ways to relieve some of the stress of providing care at home, yours or theirs. We hope you’ll find that as you care for yourself, you’ll have more to give to those who need it.

  • Prioritize and Cut: That to do list seems a mile long but there is usually a natural order for what must get done, what should get done and what can wait. Make your list accordingly and then cut it in half. Take a deep breath. Be truthful about your own efficiency and honest about what really constitutes a major crisis if it is left for another day. You’ll find many things can wait. This process will help you take control of your time, decreasing your stress.
  • Add “No” to your vocabulary: Only you know when there is too much on your plate. If this is a challenge for you, practice recognizing when you’ve had enough. Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Inner Peace for Busy People, commented in an article on Whole Living, “Make a rule for yourself that you won’t ever say yes immediately when someone asks you to do something.” Respond with a kind heart but give yourself permission to decline.
  • Be Relentless about Me Time: Every day, even if it is just five minutes, take a breather, drink some tea, take a walk, draw a picture or whatever you need to recharge. It may take some practice but eventually it will fit smoothly into life as a caretaker and become routine.
  • Befriend Technology: Using technology today can be overwhelming but finding some simple programs for your lap top or smart phone can relieve some of the mental stress it takes to care for the aging every day. Use an alarm application, for example, to set a variety of reminders such as medications, meals and other essential daily tasks that might get overlooked within the framework of a stressful day.
  • Unwind Without Technology: At the end of the day, leave the lap top and other “screens” behind and spend some time reading, doing something creative or just being. It will give your mind some time to wind down for sleep.

Only you can find the courage to be honest and know when the amount on your dance card makes you less effective at everything. As a companion, when you take time for yourself, trim your list and use the resources around you, you will get some balance and be refreshed to continue loving and providing care for seniors.