Do you need ideas on how to replenish, recharge and renew as a caregiver? This month at our caregiver’s support group, Kerrie Neu gave us lots of ideas. She agreed to let me share them here. With her 19 years of caregiving experience she discussed how to find joy among the challenges. Recognizing that every situation is different, these are some of the points she talked about.
Written by Kerrie Neu
“Just like my grandmother’s button box, we have to find the right button that fits the situation. What may fit with one person may not fit another. Don’t feel guilty if you try something that other people like to do, but it just doesn’t bring you joy. It’s okay. I once attended a quilting class that many of my friends love. I see their excitement and love their quilts. However, the first month I went I stressed so much about trying to get my block ready for the next month, that I finally realized this was causing me more stress than joy. For me, it was not the right button. Instead of acting like Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters who tried to make the glass slipper fit, we can simply find another shoe. We don’t have to fit the shoe in order to find joy and a happy ending, we can find the shoe that fits us and our situations.
Let’s talk about some buttons then. First of all, Brenet Brown talks about buttons we have to be careful of. These are the easy buttons or escape buttons that we use to numb and not think about stress. Often they are self-destructive and don’t replenish us. We may think they momentarily help us forget or be happy, but in the end they usually don’t. For me, one of those escape buttons is TV binge watching. I find when I binge watch I ended up becoming cranky with my family. The TV shows themselves aren’t bad, but what I do with them does not nourish me. So I have to be careful of how often I use those easy buttons.
On the flip side, Brenet Brown talks about reset buttons, or what I called recharge buttons. These are things that we can do to recharge and replenish ourselves. As caregivers these are critical in order to help us be able to continue to give to our loved ones. We talked about the lesson learned from Lightning McQueen in the movie Cars. When he chose to skip his pit stop in the race at the beginning of the movie, he suffered the consequence in the last lap when he blew two tires and ended up at the finish line with his tongue hanging out and his car in sad shape. He had to learn the lesson of working with others and taking time for maintenance. As caregivers, we must regularly take time to find joy and renew ourselves.
There are many ways to recharge. Sometimes we can do little things that only take moments like drinking a glass of water, breathing, watching wildlife, enjoying nature, watching a child, or reading a poem or inspiring quote. Other times we carve out a little more time to connect with a friend, take a walk, play a game, read a book, or create something. Periodically, it’s also good to plan for some extended time to get away and visit with family, attend a conference, or take a vacation. It’s important to find a balance in our life because we cannot give from an empty cup.
Over the last 19 years, we have explored many things to see what brings us joy. Some of our explorations were quite successful, like our bike trip to the Hiawatha Trail in Montana. Others were not so successful, like our bike tour of London.
In each case, though, we learned something important and kept exploring. Never give up. Just this year we discovered that Laurent loves to listen to audio books and to do puzzles. Sometimes it takes a little thought, creativity, and extra planning to be able to do something with the one you’re giving care to, but in the end it is so worth it.
Wes Stafford, former president and CEO of Compassion International said, ‘Joy is a decision, a really brave one, about how you are going to respond to life.’ Life’s hard. Choose joy anyway.”
My take away from this presentation is to be mindful of the escape, easy or numbing buttons which take me nowhere. Instead, look for the creative buttons that replenish, recharge and renew me as a caregiver. The buttons which work for me may be different from the buttons that work for you. What activities bring you joy? Writing is one of mine.
On Thursday, I will post more ideas Kerrie shared with us. You are bound to find some new buttons to try.
To read more from Kerrie Neu see neusounds.com