Tips to help you and your loved one lead an empowered, joyful life
Me first. That sounds a little selfish, doesn’t it? Good. That was my intent. I know what it’s like to be a caregiver. I know how easy it is to be so focused on caring for others and making sure you meet every obligation that you have little time left for yourself. Here’s the thing: You’ll never get the time if you don’t make the time.
Step one to living an empowered life is to find purpose. There are all kinds of studies that show that when we live a purposeful, empowered life, we live longer, are less likely to suffer from chronic diseases, eat healthier, sleep better and overall are happier people.
How do I find my purpose when I’m a caregiver?
Purpose is a modifiable factor. Your purpose can be cultivated over time, and it can change through different stages of our life. As we age, we often struggle with purpose. This is especially hard for people whose purpose once was associated with raising children or a career. So often, when the nest is empty and someone retires, they feel like their purpose is lost.
If this sounds familiar, I want to give you some tips on how to find your purpose.
I’m not going to tell you to sit cross-legged on the floor to meditate (unless that brings you relaxation and joy). What I will share are some basics to help you live an empowered, purposeful and joyful life. I’ll also share some tools to help your loved one do the same. It’s a journey you can take together, or something you can work on independently.
A purpose-driven life means you are living in the present and focusing on now, not dwelling in the past or on what you no longer have or are able to do. A purposeful life starts with mindfulness.
The 3 components to a life of purpose
I like to break it down into three parts: Flow, exuberance and ecstasy.
This is when you are engaged in an activity that allows your mind to shut out distractions. It’s something you like to do so much that you get absorbed in the activity and easily lose track of time. Maybe it’s working on a puzzle, reading, crafting or soaking in the tub.
What brings you genuine joy? For some people it’s spending time with their grandkids, family members or friends. Maybe it is walking or swimming. It could be the same activities you listed under “flow.” There is no right answer here, but it must be something that brings you joy.
This is something that makes you feel not only joyful, but also more alive. Perhaps it’s dancing or singing. Maybe you love to volunteer or make pottery. Maybe it’s getting a massage. Part of its magic is being aware of how fun it is and how good it feels. You deserve to feel alive and energized.
Make a list of what brings you joy
If you are thinking: “I have no idea what brings me joy.” You are not alone. In fact, I hear that from a lot of people, especially from folks who feel overwhelmed or lonely. I once worked with a Navy veteran who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and he was isolated and lonely. We talked about how to find purpose in life and discussed all the things that bring him joy, such as talking with other veterans. We worked together to find support groups, which he attended. He now has a group of friends that regularly plays Bingo.
I encourage you and your loved one to make a list of all the things that bring you joy. These can be big or small. I find joy hanging out with my cat or watching a favorite show on Netflix. I want you to commit to doing something that brings you joy every day and add more items from your list over time.
As caregivers, we often want to create joy for others, but this is a great opportunity for you to help your loved one feel empowered. Maybe the person you care for finds joy in volunteering or cooking or meeting others. Whatever it is, brainstorm ways to make it happen, and don’t be shy about reaching out for help.
While you encourage your loved one to do more of the things that bring them joy, you need to do the same. Caregivers need to take care of themselves to be the best they can be. So, it’s OK to think, “me first,” even if that means spending 30 minutes watching a mindless show on television while petting your cat.
CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions is a nonprofit committed to serving the needs of older adults, people with disabilities and family caregivers. We are working to build a healthier, flourishing community for all, with the help of our supporters. This blog is part of an eight-part series highlighting the challenges of aging and stepping into the role of caregiver for family members and loved ones as they age.
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Paige J. Lett, BSW
Paige Lett is a caregiver options counselor at CICOA. She earned her bachelor’s in social work from Indiana State University, and is completing work toward her master’s in social work. During her undergrad studies, Paige worked as a mental health technician and a case manager and completed several internships at places such as Hamilton Center, Regional Hospital, Union Hospital and McLean Alternative Education Center to broaden her skills as a professional social worker. Compassion and a desire to create lasting change, even on an individual level, is what drives Paige in her position. She remains in the Terre Haute area with her partner and two cats, and she enjoys reading, working on writing her book, and spending time with those she loves.