When I was actively caring for my husband during his recovery from a brain injury, there was one simple phrase that could instantly light my tail feathers on fire: “Be sure to take care of yourself.” Boom. That was it.
Every caregiver has heard some version of that advice from well-meaning friends and family. And every caregiver has probably done what I did: smile politely, nod and think, Easier said than done.
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The global coronavirus pandemic has strained the bonds and boundaries of people going about their daily lives. But for caregivers, the ensuing quarantine has made once-simple things, like having a friend spell you for a few hours of respite, either incredibly complex or prohibitive.
Carrie Barron, M.D., director of creativity for resilience at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin, points out that even 15 minutes of focusing on yourself can make a difference. “It's less about the time spent and more about staying connected to life-affirming experiences,” Barron explains. “Compassionate caregivers are altruists, whether their actions are driven by love or a sense of obligation. So it's normal to feel a twinge of guilt if we duck out or slip away from our caregiving duty to take time for ourselves."