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4 Ways Caregivers Can Adapt to the ‘New Normal’ of COVID-19

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Recently, I wrote an article for my blog that outlined what I try to do to stay grounded and “normal” during this period of uncertainty and crisis. With a few more weeks of social distancing under my belt and at least another four weeks to go, I’ve added some new activities to my “sanity toolbox”.

Take breaks to avoid burnout

Don’t underestimate the effect that a prolonged period of intense stress can have on your ability to think clearly and behave safely. Being a caregiver means you’re not only caring for yourself, so you need to be extra careful. For example, last week, I was steaming potatoes and walked away, got distracted by other issues, and, well this was the result:  

Sure, we all make mistakes, but the cost of this mistake – if the incident had gone unchecked – would have been more severe now than during “normal” times. I put my family, myself, and the house at risk. Not to mention the potatoes which were stinky and inedible!

 (I am happy to report that the pot has made a full recovery, although the sponge used to clean it has now been permanently retired.)

Now, more than ever, we as caregivers must find ways to rest, relax and re-energize. I find this especially difficult because it is only when I have a few minutes to myself, that the intensity of this world crisis really hits me. When I’m busy I’m not thinking about it as much.

Now is the time to <insert blank>

How many times in your life have you wished you had time to pursue some hidden passion?

“Maybe I’ll write a play, or a novel!”

“Maybe I’ll take up painting or learn to play the piano!”

“I’ve always wanted to study ancient Egyptian history!” And so on.

Now is the time to do one of these things. Don’t set your expectations too high, just find something that you can immerse yourself in and go for it. Whatever you choose, please be sure to pick a safe activity – don’t take up rock climbing or get a wood-burning set. This is not the time for accidents.

There are untold riches available on the internet in the way of courses (many are now free), as well as library resources that can be accessed online. Don’t feel guilty – take advantage of it and get away from the news, the virus, and the stress for 30 minutes. I’m taking courses on how to improve the reach of my writing and using advertising to help some of the small, local businesses in my area to stay in business.

Try to keep active

Everyone keeps telling me to exercise to release stress. I am not a particularly active person, although I do enjoy tennis and golf which sadly, due to social distancing measures, is not possible now. The “Stay Home” order currently in place where I live in the United States has only minimally impacted my lifestyle. My wife, however, has been unable to go to her physical therapy sessions, or have the home therapist visit for the past three weeks.

This is a serious issue without an end in sight.

So last week, I bought the same type of recumbent cross trainer that my wife would use at the clinic. It wasn’t cheap, nor was it easy to set up, but now I can ensure that she gets some aerobic exercise, and who knows, maybe I will too! Desperate times call for desperate measures so with my wife’s health at risk, the expense (and a bit of extra effort) is absolutely worth the potential benefit.

Explore new forms of social media

If you’re in your forties or older, it’s highly likely that you’re most comfortable with Facebook and Twitter as your entry points to social media. Sadly, both are overrun with news of the global pandemic, political turmoil, or some other mess.

Thanks to my 12-year-old daughter, I’ve discovered the world of “alternative” social media where, like over the rainbow, bluebirds really do fly! YouTube offers countless (and I do mean it’s impossible to count them) hours of entertainment. Videos, that in the past I would have felt guilty about watching, thinking: “why am I wasting time on this?” or scolded my daughter about: “you’re going to rot your brain” I now enjoy immensely.

I highly recommend that you find a guide to help you navigate this particular realm of social media – preferably a tween or teen who can help you avoid the true garbage so that you can enjoy the amazing creativity and energy that YouTube has to offer.

Instagram and TikTok are slightly less intimidating, although no less overwhelming and confusing without a tutor. In these worlds you can surround yourself with people who you admire, who energize and lift you up, who make you laugh, and who remind you that the world is still full of creativity, caring and humor.

My daughter is tired of hearing me saying how amazed I am about a person’s talent and what crazy thing they are willing to do to become popular on one of these channels. The entertainment aspect coupled with a significant educational component makes this type of social media universe my favorite place to escape to while social distancing.

Stay separate and stay safe!

UK/MED/20/0107 April 2020