September 07, 2018
When I began working at Independence Blue Cross, my personal health goals were lofty and ambitious. I planned on starting each day with a smoothie, bringing a picture-perfect mason jar salad for lunch, drinking six glasses of water, and taking regular “brain breaks” to stretch throughout the day.
I was turning over a new leaf! Why? I had spent the previous 15 years working in education, responsible at any given time for 18 to 125 young people. All that caregiving, on top of caring for my family and my own chronic pain condition, had left me burnt out. I’m sure many of you can relate.
Forty-seven percent of Americans are part of the “sandwich generation” — those in their 40s and 50s who are helping to care for aging parents while raising or supporting their own children. For those who are caregivers to small children or aging parents, finding that bit of energy to care for yourself can be tough. It seems that every magazine has a splashy, full-color article on how just “a few tips” can change your whole outlook on life, but let’s be real: if snacking on tiny handfuls of raw almonds could really solve all our problems, we would all be rich, healthy, and well-rested.
Caregiving is backbreaking work. Between work, school, housework, meal planning, and doctors’ appointments, how can you take care of yourself? The answer, for me, is imperfectly. I’m not following someone else’s formula — our lives just don’t work that way. So, I ditched the lofty Pinterest-perfect daily routine and instead, I follow four simple principles for imperfect self-care:
As for me? I’m counting today as a win. I’ve got leftover Indian food for lunch, and I squeezed in ten minutes with a meditation app during my trolley commute. I might not drink six bottles of water today, but I’ll probably manage four now that my colleague and I have started reminding each other to refill between meetings. And I’ve got some time at the pool on my schedule for tomorrow.
I like the person I am when I’m busy helping the people I care about, and if that means I’m never going be the kind of person who starts the day with a shot of green juice, so be it. I’m getting my self-care in – imperfectly.
This content was originally published in IBX Insights.
I work in Medicare Marketing at Independence and blog about navigating life with chronic illness and other issues relevant to caregivers and health care consumers of all ages.