helping you solve the riddle of mental illness in your family
The importance of recreation to a caregiver becomes clear when life is all work and no play!
When you are rushing from one task to another, all day long, all week long, for months on end (or sometimes years), it's easy to tighten up, become more irritable, and lose your zest for life.
While caregiving may give you immeasurable rewards in terms of meaning, new skills, and awareness, as with all things in life, overdoing it will drain you eventually. I've been there and was living life a little too wound up. What happened? I burned out.
I don't wish that upon anyone and the purpose of this little article is to discuss the importance of recreation.
All work, all day long...leads to burnout!
Burnout is common with caregivers. Often a caregiver feels he or she is the only one who can do the caregiving. And so the loved one becomes the focus of attention outside of work. Work at your job and work at home...life becomes all work. This is a recipe for disaster.
Slowly, resentment can build, stress takes its toll, physical and psychological issues can develop, sleep may suffer, and overall well-being can decline. Bad coping habits develop and soon you're on a downward spiral.
As soon as you notice this, stop! Take a good look at where you're at and see if you've worked your way into a corner. Life has a funny way of giving you little signals to direct you, and if you've ignored all the gentle signals, then they get louder and louder until you can no longer ignore them.
That's when burnout happens in the form of illness, work problems, relationship problems, etc.
When you see that you have not lived a balanced life, it's time to make some changes and get back into balance. That's a great time to think about the importance of recreation! What does that mean?
What is recreation?
Recreation means doing some activities that you enjoy, which are fun and good for you too. I'll give you a few examples from my own life. I used to love windsurfing, but totally gave that up when my family member became ill. Slowly, I started reintroducing it back into my life.
I also used to love dancing. I gave that up when my family member became ill. But once I realized how inflexible and dull I had become, I started including a little dancing in my life. I was pretty awful at it, but who cares! It was fun and it lightened up my caregiving.
So what's your passion? What do you love doing? Or maybe you just don't know anymore? Sometimes people get so stuck in a rut that they don't know what they enjoy anymore. And that's why they totally forget about the importance of recreation. If that is the case with you, try this exercise:
Reflect back to a time when you were really enjoying life. What was it that you were doing? How were you spending your days? What sort of activities were you doing and with whom? Really connect with the feeling of that time. What did it feel like?
Now you've put yourself into a frame of mind of enjoyment, even if it is only to a slight degree. Bring that state of mind to the current moment and situation. What would you love to do more of in your life right now? Make a list.
Do one tiny item on that list today.
Check back in with yourself tomorrow. Did you enjoy that one little fun activity? If so, you discovered the importance of recreation. It is loosens you up a little. Joy has that effect. And now, go back to your list and do some more of it!
More play in your life makes you a better caregiver
How does this help your caregiving? It makes you a more joyful, more relaxed person. And you bring that to your loved one. Especially if they are in a terrible state of mind, your joyous, more balanced state will help them. By decreasing your worry, they won't worry about you as much. (Surprising but true, I know from personal experience.)
Not only that, but there is this interesting process of osmosis that happens when you bring 2 people together. See if you can notice this the next time you are around someone who is really negative or really positive. Isn't your state of mind affected just a little? Maybe you get more negative or more positive yourself.
So, the flip side is true too. When you are a little more joyful because you have enjoyed a little playfulness through recreation, it's more likely that your loved one will see life slightly more uplifting.
It's a process of osmosis.