One of the most common things I hear from fellow spouses who are also caregivers in the paralysis world is they just can’t find any time for themselves. They all seem to love the idea of “me time” but feel the reality of it is just not possible. I would like to encourage you by saying IT IS POSSIBLE!!! You may need to start small and dream of greater things but you can absolutely find some time that is just for you.
Why is “me time” so important? When you have time away from your responsibilities as a spouse it gives you time to take a deep breath and focus on something that brings you joy. Spouses in general, but especially spouses of people living with paralysis, who are intentional about making time for themselves amidst their busy life tend to have more energy and are able to handle stress much better. In turn, this allows them to be a better spouse and even caregiver if they also fill that role.
Maybe as you are reading this you are nodding your head and saying, yes, someday I will be sure to start making time for myself a priority. The problem with that mindset is that “someday” never seems to get here and if it ever does, it is going to be a very busy day with all the other things you have vowed to do “someday”! It is so easy to find other things to do instead of taking even just 15 minutes a day for yourself. You must be intentional. Make a daily schedule, I encourage you to write it out hour by hour, and somewhere early in the day (like before lunch) block out AT LEAST 15 minutes for you. You can call it whatever you like, here are some of the fun names I have labeled it: “me time”, “sanity break”, “mental preservation time”, “ugly cry session” or “quiet time”.
Be sure this time is truly a break from your responsibilities. That means don’t do the laundry, make a grocery list or pay any bills. Find a quiet corner of your house or if that isn’t possible and weather permits, go outside and get some fresh air and soak in some Vitamin D. If neither of those options work, go sit in your car!! Seriously…it has heating and air conditioning so you can always make the temperature just right. Tell your spouse where you are going and why and ask that they only call or text you if there is a true emergency that can’t wait 15 minutes.
Ahhhhhh…..quiet! Sometimes just finding a quiet and peaceful place to get away from everything else can make all the difference in the rest of your day. During this break do something that brings you peace and joy. I like to read my Bible devotion while enjoying a cup of coffee or listen to worship music while working on a puzzle. Maybe you enjoy a cup of tea in a fancy tea cup and a great book. If you enjoy journaling, this is a great time to write down what is on your heart and mind as I have found writing can be very therapeutic.
Once you have your daily “me time” figured out, dream bigger and try to find time to get away from your home once a week for something indulgent. That could look like so many different things. Maybe for you it is going to a place that makes you feel relaxed and peaceful. We live in Southern California so sometimes for me this place is the ocean. There is something so calming about the ocean for me. I put on some worship music and just drink in the smell, sounds and feels of the ocean. I might listen to my Bible app or an audio book while looking out at the calming waves. Maybe you enjoy getting a pedicure or a massage. Maybe it’s just wandering around the mall or taking a walk around your favorite outdoor area.
Since I know first hand that finances can be tough for a lot of people in the paralysis world, consider asking friends and family for birthday and Christmas gifts that you can use during your alone time!! Sometimes people struggle with finding just the right gift and sometimes we struggle with being upfront about things we would like because we don’t want to sound greedy. But trust me when I say, if someone is asking what you would like, they truly want to know so they can bless you with a gift they know you will enjoy and not one you will have to return later. This is an easy way to allow others to help you and the amazing thing is they will feel blessed as well. So, ask for a gift certificate to your favorite nail salon, a local masseuse or maybe a gift card to your favorite book store or coffee house.
Being the spouse to someone living with paralysis can look very different for each couple as injury levels and abilities vary widely. For those of you that are married to someone with a high level of paralysis, you might need to enlist outside help to care for your loved one so you can get away. Discuss with your loved one who they would feel comfortable with and teach that person(s) what they need to do so you can step out for an hour or two once a week. I know many of us are blessed with a great group of friends and/or family who are willing to help if we just ask. However, I know there are some spouses that don’t have that option due to location or difficult relationships. I would encourage you to seek out a local church if you don’t have one already. Our church is part of the Calvary Chapel movement. I can’t say enough good things about the love and support we received from our church family from day one of my husband’s injury. We were blessed with meals, visits in the very dark and lonely ICU, financial blessings, prayers and encouragement for our entire family. To this day, I can put out a request for help within our church family and I will have multiple offers within an hour or so from people who truly loves us and want to help with no strings attached. There are other resources that you can look into for adult care day programs. Here are a few links that might help you in your search for support, adult care and options to assist in paying for care:
I am challenging you to start finding “me time” today. Sit down and write out your schedule hour by hour on a lined piece of paper (I like to use a composition book) and be sure to get at least 15 minutes written down in ink and start thinking of what you would enjoy doing most in that 15 minutes. If you can do this every day…that will give you at least 1 hour and 45 minutes a week all to yourself.
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