As promised, the following covers the last several self-care activities I mentioned in Part one of my Military Caregiver 2018 Self-Care Challenge. I’m hoping I can implement these successfully on a regular basis this year to help ensure my optimal physical, mental, and emotional/spiritual well-being. I also hope this overview will help serve as a guide to you as you start into the New Year— please let me know what you think! May you all have a joyful, love-filled, and healthy year ahead!

1. Get proper rest.
caregiver_rest

Now this is one thing I did well…I think! I did get at least 8 hours of sleep per day! That was, and still is, my goal. One thing that helped greatly was wearing a sleep mask, as my husband suffers from sleep difficulties since experiencing the traumas of war and needs to keep a light on and the TV going all night. I purchased a very inexpensive sleep mask from Amazon, and it has been a lifesaver for me! Some people need ear plugs, and very good ones can make a huge difference in one’s sleep experience. Taking a “cat nap” is always an option during the day when you don’t get a good night’s sleep. Whatever works! But, please do get proper rest!

2. Meditate.

yogapose

It’s important to learn how to let go of the things you cannot change and learn how to quiet troublesome, vexing thoughts. People can do this through either meditation, mindfulness exercises, or prayer, or a combination of these, depending on their belief structure. Meditation has been shown in numerous studies to have additional benefits, including enhancing physical health as well as mental health, and prayer and mindfulness exercises may well have similar positive effects. Prayer allows people to put their trust in a higher power to get guidance, comfort, solace, and peace. Those who meditate seek the same experience in many ways, and mindfulness also helps one focus on positive thoughts to help people stay calm, be productive, and stay emotionally centered. The important part of these activities is the simple act of changing one’s focus for a period of time, calming the mind, and looking at issues from a different perspective.

3.  Plug into community support.
reach out_support
There are many nonprofit and government organizations to help the military caregiver and wounded warrior communities. My blog will soon highlight a number of these organizations and the many ways in which they are helping us. Staying connected with these organizations and with neighbors, family, and friends is crucial to one’s overall well-being. Studies show that doing so greatly enhances one’s physical and mental health and general outlook on life. We can’t do it all ourselves, and most caregivers are under considerable stress 24-7, which makes us susceptible to numerous physical and mental health issues. Reach out to others whenever possible! There’s an organization or agency to take care of most needs you might have.

4. Do not be an island!

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Related to the above, I didn’t do that well at all in 2017, as this one is such a huge challenge for me! Many support groups and individuals concerned with the needs of military caregivers are virtual, so there really is no reason to not plug into these. Military Veteran Caregiver Network (MVCN) for example offers peer support to military caregivers while Blue Star Families just started efforts to develop virtual avatar training. These are two of a growing number of efforts that are working virtually on behalf of military caregivers. As caregivers, we sometimes just want to talk with someone who really gets it, who understands what we’re going through—another military caregiver. We simply need to be in touch with someone who actually is living and experiencing the same things that we are and can really relate to us.

Despite the value of such virtual opportunities, however, we have to remember, once again, that it isn’t healthy for anyone to stay isolated inside one’s home, regardless of the impediments to our getting out of the house. Therefore, I can’t stress enough that, regardless of the demands or our care recipient’s needs, we need to make an effort to get out of the house and communicate with others in the outside world— we still must find the time to exit and BREATHE. Ask a friend to meet you for coffee somewhere, or to take a walk with you or go to a movie if possible. And always try to join a friend or family member for a similar activity if you’re invited; it’s crucial for your sense of balance and overall happiness. Military caregivers, our lives depend on these activities. We must make a conscious effort to take care of ourselves so that we can stay healthy, motivated, and focused squarely on our responsibilities as caregivers. Doing so will benefit each of us and our care recipients as well!

So, my challenge to all of for 2018 is … continue a conscious, well-conceived program of SELF-CARE! Feel free to share what works for you in comments below.

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