It’s that time of year. The time of year when all the festivity of the holiday season is over. The time of year when, for many, it’s dark and cold and the months of January and February can feel never ending. It’s the time of year when people put away the sugar and the carbohydrates and scour the internet for healthy food options. Everyone starts searching for the reset button, researching ways to make better habits and break the old, not-so-healthy ones. Gym memberships are started, alcohol is put down. Old friends are called and promises are made that gossip is off the table. Resolution lists are penned and prettied up and displayed happily on the refrigerator. And sometimes, maybe as January is coming to a close, those lists are angrily thrown in the trash.
For those of us who care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it’s all of these things and more. It’s all of the normal things that the winter months bring, as well as the balance of health and happiness for self and care for the loved one. Taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s disease can be a full-time job, which is why it’s very important for the caretaker to be healthy and happy themselves.
Here are five ways to be healthier, in mind, body and soul, in 2018 to be the best possible version of yourself. That way, when you are called upon to give to others, your giving is coming as an overflow of the good you have stored up in yourself.
- Move your body. This doesn’t have to be yoga or high intensity interval training or going to the gym. Moving your body involves paying attention to what your body is telling you. Is there somewhere it hurts? Is your neck bothering you? Start there. With small movements, listening to what your body says. Go for a walk or stretch after work, take breaks from sitting to move your arms or bend at the waist. Just keep moving.
- Drink water. I know, we hear this one all the time. But it’s such a small and easy thing to do and it makes a world of difference in our health and the appearance of our skin. Want to look younger? Drink water!
- Stop gossiping. Gossip hurts the person doing it and the person who is the subject of it. Gossip fosters common enemy intimacy, which feels powerful and connecting at the moment it’s happening, but doesn’t foster real relationships. Anything built on hate or dislike can’t stand for long.
- Read a book. Pick a book that interests you: travel, science, fiction, memoir, history. Whatever it might be that you find interesting. You can listen to a book on tape too if reading is too much for you. Either way, stimulating your brain with long-form writing is necessary and beneficial.
- Get together with friends. Research shows that loneliness shortens your life span more than a pack-a-day smoking habit or obesity. While social media offers us many positive things, it doesn’t do the same for our minds and souls as sitting with people in person does. Start a club around something you like or plan a weekly meal with friends.
All five of these things are doable steps to a healthier and happier year. When you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, or any illness, it’s essential to make sure that you’re also caring for yourself. We cannot love others well when we haven’t loved ourselves well and we have nothing left to give of ourselves. Here’s to a year full of all the hard things: messes and sickness and tears and frustration, but also to a year of all the joyful things: laughter and hand-holding and memories and love.