Welcome back. Last time we started talking about limits. You can find that post here (add link). But if you’re all caught up let’s continue.
Originally, I wanted to start talking about why they are so important, but as I began to write this post I found myself more concerned with helping you find them. I still intend to do that post, but I’m going to push it off a little bit. I want to talk to the other care providers I know and give you a few more examples from a practical perspective.
So for today, we’re going to work through a few exercises to help you determine your limits and to make sure that you are fitting the things into your day that you really need to be doing. Because sometimes limits mean just doing the things that have to be done and not trying to do everything on the household bucket list.
When I first started doing this I was very young. I’ve been helping with my mom’s care for as long as I can remember and as I’ve gotten older that has just meant more and more responsibilities. Dad worked and mom couldn’t, so anything I was able to do was left to me. That’s just how it was.
Between taking care of mom and dealing with childhood bullies, I didn’t have much of a life. I didn’t have many supports. Which may be a reason I still struggle with those supports. The longer you stay away from social interaction the harder it becomes. I’ve seen it with both myself and my mother. We both started out as very extroverted people. I’ve watched her lose that and become very introverted. And I”ve watched myself fight to land somewhere in the middle.
Back to limits, however, I had few limits for myself at the time. I was too young and I wasn’t cognizant enough to realize that I needed them. I did everything asked of me. It took me a really long time to understand why that was so frustrating. And the reason was that I wasn’t taking care of my needs or fulfilling my desires. It made me angry and more resentful as time went on.
However, when I hit my teens I hit my rebellious streak. I ended up moving to a new town a year before my parents. I had a year with my grandmother. No chores. Nothing. I was just allowed to be a preteen.
So when mom moved back in with all of us and wanted me to do even more. Things that she could do for herself. I wasn’t the nicest person, to say the least. I had reached a limit. No longer was I willing to just do everything without question. No longer was I willing to do things that I knew she could do on her own.
This caused a huge rift between us for a while. When they finally bought their place next door. I didn’t move in with them. Instead, I stayed across the circle with grandma. I still had chores over there. I still had things to do, and at first, they tried to make me do everything. However, after a few family chats, screaming matches, and a lot of frustration, my father realized that what my grandmother was telling him was correct. I needed to be a kid and fulfill those needs and mom needed to do what she could.
At the time that didn’t happen, but I see her trying now and I am very thankful for that. We get along way better then we did back then. The point is that limits shift. You find new ones and abandon old ones like clothing. Our priorities change and that’s okay. The goal here is to find a balance between what you want, what they need, and ensuring that the gap is filled somewhere.
Exercise # 1
For the next week keep track of everything you do and how much time you spend on it. I did this a few years ago and was readily surprised at how much time I was wasting on Facebook and other diversions. There is simply so much you can learn about yourself by what you spend your time on. Use this sheet to chart it and see what you are using your time for and maybe some things you can drop.
Exercise # 2
Last week we made a list of everything that you do. You made it as detailed as you liked or could manage. I want you to have that list nearby. Pull out a blank schedule you can fiddle with and a pencil. I want you to go through and write in all the things that life could not go on without.
Set aside time to pay the bills. Set aside time to grocery shop and cook dinner. These things have to be done. No negotiation. They are base needs. My simple list includes:
- Showering Everyone
- Grocery shopping
- Paying bills
- Work (easier for me since I work at home)
After base needs. Fill in spots for your social/personal needs. Now, this does not mean schedule something for yourself each night. For me it looks something like this:
- One night out with mom and the Valkyrie
- date night
- time just with the Valkyrie.
- an hour or two for myself each day.
All the Other Stuff
After that, you can look at other things. I have an income so my businesses, crafts, everything else is secondary. All of that comes after everything else I’ve already gone through. I make time for it because it is important for me to have a backup plan. However, people are more important. So make sure you meet your base needs first. Then you’re social. The social things may only happen every other week, but I make sure we do those things because the interaction is important.
So after I’ve put in my base and social needs I work on the rest. Once or twice a week I have a time set aside to try to get as much of the paperwork done for anything else. For example, I’m trying to get dad services, but as much as I want that, there are other things that need to be done as well. So I use my paperwork time for that.
The rest of my day I have these things on my list in the order that I’d like to get them done. I try to do them daily. It doesn’t always happen:
- Exercise/Meditate/Pray (It’s kinda all one thing for me)
- reading (short little books about happiness and such)
- Write or edit a blog post
- ABC mouse with Freya
- Udemy class (currently doing 2 lectures on a web design class and one in Reiki)
- Crafty (something creative. Right now I’m doing a box a day on my advent calendar!)
On most days I get through the Udemy class but occasionally I don’t. I do my best. Just remember that your todo list isn’t the end of the world. If you don’t get it all done, it’s okay.
Every day, when I’m done for the day, I look at my list. I count how many things were on it. I add in anything that popped up and interfered with my plans. For example, today I needed to package and freeze my meat from the grocery trip the other day so it didn’t go bad. That was one more item on my list, just an unexpected one.
Once I know how many things I planned on doing/came up, I can’t how many things I got done. Most days, I find that out of 10-15 items, I’ve gotten around 70% percent of them done. Sometimes more. Sometimes less. Also look at how complicated the tasks were and realize that you probably got more done in a day than you think unless you wasted a ton of time on Facebook like I used to and sometimes still do.
Exercise # 3
Now you have to determine what your limits are going to be. You’ve looked at your time. You are going to have to look at how much and what you are willing to do. How far can you go before you break yourself? Avoid the last one if you can as I can say that it sucks to not be able to give care because you’re down with an injury.
Burnout is a real concern and it’s really easy to fall into. I’ll save burnout for another post, however. Today, we need to just focus on avoiding that entirely.
When you find something that you think is a limit consider the following:
- What makes it so uncomfortable or why do you dislike it?
- Can you completely avoid it or are you going to need someone to do it?
- Can you compromise on that fact to some degree?
- Who can you ask for help?
- What are your resources?
Bed baths used to be an issue for me. I was very uncomfortable. Why? because I had an issue with wiping her butt. It sounds silly but it is true. I also didn’t really know the proper way to do it…if you can really say there is such a thing aside from pericare. For a while, I had someone else who could perform that service in the house, another aide. However, when she left, I realized that I could bend and learn to do that. However, I still refuse to wipe her rear. That’s her gig, not mine for as long as she can do it.
We can renegotiate if we get to the point where she can’t.
At the time I knew I could ask the aide for help. I also knew that there were services out there to provide that care if you don’t feel qualified. Remember, you don’t have to provide all the care if your loved ones are eligible for these programs. I only took over the care was because there was no one else to do it and my company offered to hire me to cover the hours. Otherwise, my care would have just been limited to financial and transportation.
This is just another reason why limits are so important.
And if you can’t do it?
That may mean that you need to ask a sibling or other family members for help. In my case, I don’t have that luxury. My sister has her own health problems and lives on the other side of the country.
It may mean that you need to seek outside help. And depending on what has changed your limitations, it could even mean walking away at some point. Or realizing that it’s time to put them in assisted living, a group home, or even a nursing home depending on the situation.
You have to respect your limits both physical and mental.
No matter what your reasons, you have to realize that in the end, it doesn’t do any good to push yourself past safety or mental limits. If you end up taking yourself out of the equation to do so. If you hurt yourself pushing past those limits, then who will take care of them? And don’t forget your mental limits. If you push yourself past your mental limits, what will happen to you?. Or worse, your children if you have them.
It’s Not Easy
And I am not saying that any of this is easy by any means. I’ve walked away from my parents and grandma at points where the gaps were covered. Even though I needed to do that at the time to go to college, I will never that was an easy choice. I made a lot of phone calls home and spent a lot of nights hoping that they were really okay. The worst was when my grandmother’s health started to decline. I was in England. It had been bad enough being three hours away much less three thousand miles with a six-hour time difference.
When I was finishing school and my grandmother really fell apart. It was hard to keep my promise to her. She wanted me to finish finals instead of coming home to take care of her. The woman who basically raised me because my dad was working and mom was sick. I said goodbye to her over the phone because she told me that my education was more important. That was hard. It hurt. And a lot of times these decisions for good or bad do hurt.
No matter what you learn from this, realize that you’re not alone. There are resources out there for you. I hope you consider this to be one of them. There are people out there who can help. You just have to find your resources and be willing to use them. Be willing to learn from them. Most of all, be willing to recognize your limits because if you don’t, you only hurt yourself and those you love.
Stay tuned. Next week we will actually cover what can go wrong when you don’t have limits or don’t set stern enough limits.