South Charlotte

A caregiver's needs must be addressed, too

Typically, when spring rolls in, I have more pep in my step, and I feel as alive as the new plants emerging from the earth.

But this year was different. I was exhausted, run down and a bit overwhelmed.

As much as I didn't want to admit it, I was burned out.

Being sandwiched in the dual care-giving role of taking care of my mom, Rose Beebe, 88, who has Alzheimer's disease, and single-handedly raising my daughter, Jazlyn, 17, can be stressful and emotionally draining.

When someone recently asked me what I did for fun, I struggled to come up with an answer.

I realized I had been so busy juggling the demands of my life that I had neglected my own needs and was paying the price.

An estimated 44 million Americans age 18 and older provide unpaid assistance and support to older people and adults with disabilities. Caregivers are a population at high risk for depression and serious illness. Studies show that 16 percent of caregivers report their health has worsened since taking on the role, and about half of those who care for someone with Alzheimer's disease develop psychological distress.

Beyond the stressors of caring for my mother and daughter, both of my jobs can be demanding. As a writer, I am always under a deadline to turn out interesting and informative content. I have to be able to easily access my creativity and that is difficult when I am burning the candle at both ends.

Being a yoga teacher is a form of care-giving, and although I enjoy nurturing and supporting my clients, it involves a lot of effort. My work requires a high level of mental and physical energy to be effective, and my burnout was starting to reduce my productivity.

Part of the art of care-giving is learning how to balance responsibilities and still have a personal life, something I struggle with continuously.

After giving myself a reality check, I acknowledged I was exceeding my limitations. Sometimes life on the hamster wheel is so fast, it's hard to step off and look around. It was time to recharge my batteries with some self-love and overdue down time.

I started taking weekly tai chi classes and am enjoying this ancient Chinese mind-body practice. The flowing movements provide a meditation in motion that takes me far away from my responsibilities.

And because I spend so much of my time teaching, it feels wonderful to be a student again.

I also am trying to spend more time socializing, going out to dinner and getting out of town more often. When you work from home, it's easy to get stuck in your comfort zone and constantly be reminded of all the household and yard chores that need to be done.

Perhaps the best thing I have done for myself is to take frequent "staycations" in my backyard. I grew up on a farm and have always been a nature lover. Being outdoors is the easiest way for me to relax.

I've created a lush sanctuary in my backyard, and every spring it comes to life with noisy bullfrogs sunbathing by a pond, an array of colorful foliage sprinkled within a grove of shady trees and a hammock that beckons me to escape reality.

I spend time there almost every day watching squirrels dart from tree to tree and birds chirp as they splash in the birdbath. It seems the whole world stands still when I decompress in this personal oasis.

Some nights I start a bonfire and watch the fireflies put on a show while owls perform a soothing soundtrack. It is here that I can peacefully shed my labels and return to who I really am.

I am grateful I have been reminded to take better care of myself and will make my needs a priority.

A quote from the poet Ovid sums up the importance of self care: "Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop."

The pep in my step is back. I am refreshed and ready to start anew.

Editor's note: In Lisa Moore's column, "Generations," she writes about the challenges and healing she experiences as a member of the Sandwich Generation: those caring for a parent and a child.