Caregivers are a unique group of people. They come in all shapes, sizes, races, and religions. What sets them apart is their resourcefulness in time of need, stamina in time of exhaustion, strength in time of weakness, and perseverance in time of futility. This makes caregivers sound like super heroes. Lord knows they wish they were but they’re not. To maintain the pace needed, especially now with the holidays upon us, caregivers must nurture their bodies, minds, and spirits. These three elements of health make us uniquely human and cannot be separated, for to neglect one disrupts the others and a state of ill-health results. By maintaining their energy, vitality, and spirituality caregivers can stay healthy and in balance even during this hectic time. Here are a few tips:

“Forget the health food. I need all the preservatives I can get.” Sound familiar? But there’s no two ways about it; good nutrition is fuel for energy. It helps maintain overall health and stamina for those endless days and nights. Rules of good nutrition include 4-5 servings each of fruits and vegetables a day. I know it sounds impossible to get that much in one day, but one serving is usually ½ cup. So double up and get two servings at once! Limit red meat and increase your consumption of fish to twice a week. Watch that cholesterol: no more than 300mg. a day. Drink plenty of fluids, especially water: 6-8 cups a day. Dehydration causes fatigue and irritability. Lord knows you have enough reasons to feel tired and irritable, so drink. If you really dislike plain water, mix it with half juice or lemonade. Put it in a sport bottle and carry it around, sipping frequently.

Oh, no! Not the big “E”. Yes, I’m sorry to say that exercise is important (for you politically correct minded people, the new preferred term is “physical activity”). Think of it as combustion for fuel to produce energy. It also improves mood; helps to maintain (or lose) weight; and do wonders for the cardiovascular system. Consistent exercise can increase your endurance: people will call you the “Energizer Bunny”. Walking is an excellent exercise because it’s both aerobic (good for your heart) and weight bearing (good for your bones). It also clears the mind. There is nothing like a brisk walk on a crisp day to make you appreciate God’s good works. Exercising daily is best, but three times a week is good, too. Now, don’t think you have to run ten miles or sweat buckets to reap the benefits. Thirty minutes 3 times a week of sustained exercise, or, ten minutes 3 times a day 3 times a week will do the trick. Don’t forget to stretch: gently s-t-r-e-a-c-h those joints and muscles to keep them limber and toned.

“Insanity is my only means of relaxation”. Ah, yes, to relax: just soak in a hot tub, or daydream. Relaxation is the reward for hard work. It’s the tonic that soothes those aching muscles, quiets the mind, and allows you to get in touch with your soul. It’s not a luxury to be experienced occasionally; it’s a necessity to be experienced frequently. You owe it to yourself and your family to take time to relax. Do some soul searching, retreat into a good book, or just contemplate the wonders of nature. Relaxation is essential for keeping the engine going. No amount of fuel or combustion will start the engine if it’s worn out.

“When you love yourself, you give glory to God.” Fr. Joe Breighner. To love yourself you must first like yourself. We all have something we dislike about ourselves. It’s too bad we aren’t perfect, but that’s what makes us human. So get over it! Stop beating yourself up. It’s time to let go of self-recriminations and use your energy for better things. Recognize your achievements; write them down; pat yourself on the back and celebrate small accomplishments that no one else sees.

“Keep the faith, baby?” Create space to nurture your spirit. Practice silence in prayer or meditation. Keep the faith with three attitudes for living:

  1. Acceptance. Take one day and one hour at a time. Accepting what is happening on a spiritual level will increase tolerance and peace of mind.
  2. Resignation but not passivity. Resignation that you are not alone. God is with you on your journey.
  3. Conformity to faith to help answer the unanswered, hope to see a better day, and trust in God.

Listen for God’s presence and know that you don’t walk alone. Feel His warmth and vitality throughout your soul. The spirit of God is constant; just take the time to experience it. Be quiet in the moment and you will see. God Bless.

Mary C. Fridley