Feeling overwhelmed is often the result of saying “yes” to too many things. It’s not hard for caregivers to end up with what feels like a never ending to-do list. There is always more that you could be doing, and of course you want to do all you can to support your loved one. Although it’s tempting to do more and more, having healthy boundaries and being mindful about what you agree to take on will help you to focus on what you’re doing and allow you the time to take care of yourself.
How do you avoid spreading yourself too thin? Get really comfortable saying “no.”
Saying no can be hard. You could feel scared about how someone will react if you decline an invitation or you might worry that your loved one won’t get what they need if you can’t do what they need done. Fear can be a huge reason for struggling with saying no, but excitement can be as well. Have you ever accepted invitations to a few too many holiday parties, and then felt burnt out when you realize how many events you’ll need to attend in a short span of time? The impulse to say yes can be driven by yearning, but this too can contribute to caregiver burnout.
Learn the 24 hour rule.
A supervisor gifted me some sage advice a few years ago and it has helped me to avoid spreading myself too thin quite a few times. When someone asks you to do something, let them know that you’ll respond in 24 hours. Use those 24 hours to really think about the request and whether or not you would be able to commit. If you’re having trouble deciding, ask yourself the following questions:
How much time will the request take me? | You might find that what’s being asked of you will simply take too much time with what you have already committed to. If this is the case, be honest! Let the person know that you have too much else going on to commit.
Do I have the skills needed to do what’s being asked of me? | Sometimes we’re asked to do things that are beyond our skill sets. Though it is possible to expand our abilities, it might not be in another’s best interest, or might take too much time. Ask yourself if you’re comfortable doing what’s asked of you. If not, reach out to someone who is.
Is there someone else that can help? | Delegation is a wonderful thing! For example, if your loved one needs help with shopping, look in to grocery delivery. If there are things are the house that need doing, reach out to a Better at Home program.
Why am I saying yes? | If the answer is that it’s because you’re scared to say no, you will want to explore other options.
How am I doing? | Check in with yourself and see how you’re doing. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating well? Are you finding time to exercise and people who make you smile? When was the last time you had a really good laugh? If you’re not happy with your answers, it could be better to decline a request and spend some time taking care of yourself.
What steps do you take to avoid spreading yourself too thin? We’d love to hear from you in our comments!
Cassandra Van Dyck