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Try a New Year's Intention

Instead of making New Year's resolutions that you quietly abandon after a few weeks, why not try setting an intention instead? The results may surprise you, especially if your goal is to be a better caregiver.

New Year’s Eve has come and gone. Despite your heartfelt New Year’s resolutions to do better—to be better—you find yourself slipping back into old habits and attitudes before the week is out.

If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. Many of us find the practice of making New Year’s resolutions to be more demoralizing than motivating. If you’re finding yourself in the same old resolution rut, things can be different.

The first step is to think differently about the changes you want to make. Think of them in terms of intentions, not resolutions. Intentions focus more on the process of doing something, while resolutions tend to focus on outcomes. When you focus on end results and you fall short, as many of us do, you may feel self-critical, which is never helpful. Intentions are more forgiving.

An intention can be simple, such as not letting caregiving tasks take over your life. If someone is suffering from an acute illness, it’s possible to put your life on hold for a few days, a few weeks, or a month to look after them. But when someone has a chronic illness that will never get better, putting your life on hold permanently so you can look after that person isn’t sustainable.

If you’re a caregiver interested in setting some intentions for the new year, here’s how to go about it.

First, get clear about what you want to cultivate in your life. Next, write it down. The statement might be something like this: “I provide care for mom without abandoning myself.”

Once you’ve written your statement of intention, bring it to life by taking realistic actions every day until they become habits. These actions should be simple and concrete, such as carving out some time daily and weekly for self-care activities. A realistic action might be something like this: “I will make arrangements for my sister to stay with Mom for two hours each week so I can have some time to myself.”

Setting an intention involves paying attention. The goal is to insert these small actions into your life every day. You demonstrate your commitment to your intention by keeping your word to yourself. For most of us, that means adding these activities to our calendar. We can’t just think about making it happen. Saying, “If I get the chance, I'm going call my sister and ask her to sit with Mom,” because that chance will never come. Adding your self-care activities to your calendar will help you stick to your intention.

If you set an intention to do a better job of looking after yourself, don’t be surprised if you feel a little guilt creeping in. That’s normal. In our culture, women are conditioned to be caregivers. We are often told that we’re selfish if we attempt to take care of ourselves. Some people may even believe that your only purpose in life is to take care of others. It takes daily practice to unlearn that conditioning. It won’t happen overnight.

You may also find yourself having trouble trusting others to do what you want them to do. This is a common challenge for caregivers. It’s easy to fall into the trap of not trusting others to help because they won’t be able to do what you do in the way you do it. While that may be true, others can still perform those tasks.

It’s not a sign of weakness if you ask for help. It’s a sign of strength. Asking for help demonstrates that you love and respect yourself, and that’s how you provide the best care for those you love.

If you could use some help dealing with the legal, financial, and personal challenges created by a loved one’s aging, long-term illness, or disability, Truhlsen Elder Care Law of Nebraska is here for you. Just give us a call.

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