Caregiving During a Pandemic
WHEW! UGH! 2020. What a year.
We are headed into winter now and the pandemic is relentless. It has been life altering. Many people have lost their jobs. Across our communities, people are feeling isolated, lonely, anxious, and stressed. Relationships have faltered, financial security has diminished or disappeared, and we are required to learn a new way of living, day by day.
For caregivers, all that is nothing new; it’s just another ordinary day. Certainly, the pandemic has exacerbated difficulties, but the drama and burden remain steady.
Hopefully you have learned some ways to cope. For those of us who have only the pandemic to deal with, as well as those of us who are providing care for loved ones, the following suggestions might alleviate some of the stress or at least keep us healthy as we try to cope each day.
1) Eat regular, healthy meals.
It is way too easy to get into a habit of “stress-eating” and filling up on easy to make snack foods. But try to always have a bowl of fruit handy (only the kind you like!). Keep carrots and celery peeled and sliced in convenient bags in the fridge. Buy them already prepared at the grocery store, even if they cost a little more, if that’s the difference in whether you’ll eat that instead of chips and dip. When you make a healthy dish, make extra for the freezer so you’ll save time later.
2) Get adequate sleep.
The best way to fend off infections and depression is to get 8-10 hours of sleep per night. If you have trouble sleeping, consult your physician for advice on sleep aids or lifestyle changes that may help.
3) Ask for help.
It seems like a simple statement. But I know for some people, it is a very difficult notion. Especially for caregivers who’ve been doing it “their way” for years. But now is the time to let go for a bit. The pandemic has opened work schedules such that in many cases, helpful family and friends have more flexibility in being able to help, even if for only an hour or so at the time.
4) Use online shopping.
Grocery shopping has been a time thief for years, but now it can be so much easier! Placing an order and choosing a convenient pick-up time or opting for home delivery is much easier for both the stores and the shoppers now that it is more common. And picking up your grocery order might be one of the things your neighbor can help you with.
5) Call time-out
for a few minutes every day. Even a 10-minute respite to go for a quick walk, to sit in quiet meditation or prayer, or to complete a short exercise routine will help break the cycle of stress and anxiety.
6) Do something creative.
Not many of us are professional painters, sculptors, or musicians. But I hope you will try something new no matter how elementary it may be. Perhaps you enjoy being in the kitchen. Find some of those old cookbooks you haven’t used for ages and try a recipe you’ve never made before. Or pull out those knitting or crochet needles you might have put away and start a new project – something easy with no deadline for finishing. Did you enjoy coloring when you were a kid? Go buy a coloring book (or order one online); they make them for adults, too. Maybe you’d prefer just a notebook of blank pages that you can fill with doodles using colored pencils or markers or crayons. Or you might decide to write a poem or story in that book. Just let your mind wander.
7) Find relief in humor.
Watch some old movies and tv shows that made you laugh. Or get recommendations from others. Read a funny book – again, many sources for recommendations. Just find a way to get those giggles and guffaws bursting out!
8) Make connections.
Write a short note to friends you haven’t seen for a while. Or let a family member know you are thinking of them, even if they live in your town. People appreciate getting friendly mail! And you will enjoy a nice emotional lift when they respond to you.
9) Rethink holidays.
As the holiday season approaches, please follow all the recommendations of healthcare experts and cut back drastically on gatherings this year. Many people have become very savvy in their work life using Zoom and other meeting apps; those are the safest ways to gather. Additionally, consider taking some time to think about your favorite memories of holidays past. Perhaps you can write a few pages detailing the most meaningful, or funny, or enjoyable times you remember. Share those stories with your family, especially your children and grandchildren.
10) Create a Gratitude Journal.
Accept the challenge to focus on gratitude for the next thirty days. Each day, write down three things for which you feel grateful and why. I am thinking of a quote I heard recently (sorry, I don’t know the original source) which is, “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” That might be just what we need to take us to January and a new year.
Here’s hoping you will stay safe and healthy through the winter. Remember to get your flu shot, wear a mask, stay six feet apart, and wash your hands often.