Sunday, January 5, 2014

Eat, Drink and Go Shopping

You’ll hear the advice in every caregiver class and every support group: You have to take care of yourself. You have to do nice things for yourself. You have to build treats and fun things into your caregiving life.

It’s great advice and perfectly true. You do need good meals, favorite treats and a wonderful dinner out once a month or once a week. You need to buy lovely toiletries so you can take that highly recommended bubble bath. And yes, to manage your stress you do need to get a massage, a facial, a pedicure or a makeover.

“Shop Therapy” is recommended by caregiver experts. They say it’s helpful to take yourself to a mall—and that high end malls are especially beautiful, comforting places to shop or people watch. And yes, especially after a hard stretch—managing a surgery or a long regimen of treatments, you should buy the dress, scarf or shoes. Shopping is especially helpful because it is forward facing. You think about your future when you are buying a new dress. You are reminding yourself that you will have a life again and that you will get back to what matters to you.

It is also OK to have a glass of wine at night and a wonderful piece of chocolate and yes, to order in pizza with all of the fixings, and if you love to cook, then go ahead and make that “Darn Good Chocolate Cake.”


Yes, but.

But don’t eat all of that cake, and don’t drink the wine every night. Don’t shop everyday, especially online. And don’t slip into the danger zone with any addictive substances.

How will you know? It’s not easy. You are stressed. You may have prescriptions of your own for sleep or anxiety or depression. And you have access to his or her meds too. So number one: Are you taking your meds as prescribed? And are you taking --or tempted to take --medication prescribed to another person?

If “Shop Therapy” is your primary release do you feel better afterward? Or are there twinges of sadness or shame or regret? Can you pay for what you are buying? Are you shopping to get even with him/her for being sick?

Alcohol may be the trickiest area. Everyone, well almost everyone, will tell you that you deserve that glass of wine. But you have to ask yourself: how big is that glass? Are you refilling it before it’s empty? Do you watch the clock to see if it’s “time” for your drink? And again, do you have remorse, regret, or shame about your drinking?

The biggest signal of all that one of your “soothers” may be creating trouble is if you keep it a secret. So do you hide your shopping, spending, eating, drinking or drug use? That is your best self’s way of telling you that something is “off” in your caregiver self-care.

Getting honest with a good friend can help and so will talking with your caregiver support group. A good group with an experienced facilitator won’t be surprised or judgmental. And they can help you move back to into balance or to get help that is just for you.

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