Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Your First Priority is You

Are you kidding? I have my kids, my job, my spouse, my parent to think about. They’re my top priorities.

Think about your life now.

How do you feel...

When you haven’t gotten enough sleep, haven’t eaten a decent meal in days, have pushed yourself until your head and shoulders and stomach throb with tension?

When you haven’t had a chance in weeks to connect meaningfully with another person, talk out your worries, have fun just doing nothing?

When you haven’t had a moment to yourself in days?

You can't serve others with energy, patience and love when you have less than your best to give.

Making Yourself Your Top Priority Does NOT Mean…
· Ignoring the responsibilities and obligations that you have to your loved ones.
· Refusing to do something for your parent simply because it is “inconvenient” or because you “don’t feel like it”.
· Misusing your choices in life to disregard real needs your parent may have.
. Becoming self-absorbed.

Making Yourself Your Top Priority Means…
· Recognizing that you have a right to your own life, that your needs are just as important as anyone else’s.
· Letting your own life and well-being take precedence so that you will be ready physically and emotionally when you most need it.
· Refusing to give of your time and energy unstintingly to others without giving yourself the same proportion of time and energy.
. Striving for balance within your life so that you are not the last person to whom you apportion your time and effort.

Recognizing your own needs, dealing with your own emotions, getting help when you need it, considering your personal goals throughout the period of your caregiving—all these things insure that you will have the endurance to care effectively for a long period of time, especially if that period of time begins to stretch from months to years. Taking care of yourself is not selfish when you are a caregiver. It is essential.

To maintain your well-being, experts agree that you must pay equal attention to five areas of your life:
1. Physical: the health of your body. Establishing good health habits, nutritious eating, rest, exercise and regular medical check-ups.
2. Mental: keeping a limber mind, learning something new every day, solving puzzles, maintaining a sense of humor, fostering your creativity, organizing your life experience in your mind, the sense of self-worth.
3. Emotional: the capacity to feel deeply, be sensitive to feelings (yours and those of others), a willingness to experience feelings and the appropriate responses to those feelings.
4. Spiritual: The core dimension of you, the profound sense of who you are. Living with a sense of hope, recognizing a set of clear values and a sense of worth and peace. Feeling that there is meaning and purpose to your life. Giving yourself time for quiet, reflection, prayer.
5. Relational: Developing rich and meaningful relationships with others. Building a supportive network of friends who offer understanding, closeness and empathy. Being part of a community of folks who care for one another.
from "Seeking Your Healthy Balance" by Donald and Nancy Tubesing

Remember also that you have other priorities after yourself and before your parent.
· If you are married, you made a commitment to your spouse that brought you together as a new family, separate from your parents. Statistically, your spouse will survive long after your parents have passed on. Long-term, it makes little sense to jeopardize your marriage and alienate your partner while caring for your aging parent.
. If you have children, your responsibility to them also takes precedence. Your parents are part of the past and guided you to where you are now. Your obligation is to see that your children are guided into the future. Do not ignore your children’s needs while caregiving; guiding the next generation is a way to honor your parents.

· Read this blog, visit the Parentcare website, the Parentcare 101 Bookstore, use all the resources and suggestions you find to help you balance your life and remind you to nurture yourself.
. When you are overwhelmed, remind yourself that your first priority is you. Give yourself a 15-minute break of quiet, then set your priorities and tackle the problems facing you.

For Reflection and Sharing:
When you read "Your first priority is you.", what is your reaction? Do you think you can take this advice seriously? Have you taken this advice to extremes and ignore your parents' true needs? What would it mean in your life if you gave yourself the same measure of time, consideration and care that you do others? What one thing can you today to put a little more balance in your life?

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