Monday, March 7, 2011

Vacation ...

Hi everyone! Just a note to say that I will be off to Vancouver Island in the early hours of tomorrow morning to spend Spring Break with family and friends. (So, I won't be posting here again until after March 17.)

I've written, before, about how important it is for helpers to take breaks before we need them, so this week I'm taking my own advice and having a brief foretaste of what will be a longer vacation in the summer.

As someone who is self employed, I'm always surprised when salaried folks don't take their full allotment of paid vacation. (As a family caregiver, I was even more amazed!) We need these regular breaks from our caring work or we soon find that the well is empty and we have nothing left to give.

Dr David Posen offers some sage advice about taking time off in his book, The Little Book of Stress Relief:

1. Plan to take all the vacation time your employer allows. If you're self-employed, give yourself at least two to three breaks a year.

2. Spread your vacation time over the year. As soon as you return from a holiday, plan the next one.

3. Organize your work so other people can cover for you while you're away.

4. Don't take work-related material with you. This includes professional reading, laptops and cell phones. If you feel naked without that stuff, it's a chance to break your dependency - an added benefit!

5. Don't call the office and don't tell them where they can reach you. Make it a clean break.

6. Plan a light first day back to work (for catch-up and readjustment).

Now, if you're a family caregiver, some of this may not be possible. But, with some planning, most of us can get away for at least a short period. The problem is that we often wait until we're so depleted that the mere thought of making all those arrangements is more than we can handle. If this is the case for you, ask for help. Ask someone who knows your situation well to help you plan some time away. Ask them to do internet searches for locations, to make phone calls, to arrange a list of surrogate carers, to help you write down all the things that need to be done for your care recipient while you are away.

It may seem a lot to ask of someone, but the truth is that people who care about us want to help and are just looking for opportunities to be able to do something concrete. The first time I went away while caring for my husband, I called everyone I knew who was qualified to help care for him and I actually had people crying on the phone because they were so grateful to be able to do something for us.

So, again, get away before you need to and ask for the help you need to make it happen. (You'll always be ambivalent about going, especially if your loved one objects, but you'll come home refreshed and energized and full of stories that will expand and brighten your loved one's world as well.)

And, if it is truly not possible to leave right now, find a way to take small "vacations" during the day. Set the timer on the stove to remind you to go out and sit on the front steps for five minutes, three times a day. Take some slow deep breaths, notice the warmth of the sun on your face, the shape of the clouds, the sound of the rain on the path, the swelling of the buds in the garden with their promise of hope and renewal.

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