The holidays are over now and I talked about supporting your child through the maze of New Year’s Resolutions in my last post. This time I would like to talk about New Year’s Resolutions for moms and caregivers in general. Chances are that if you have a child or close family member with an eating disorder your personal resolution isn’t going to be related to dieting and exercise. That doesn’t mean that because you have a child with an eating disorder you are forbidden to attend to your own needs regarding nutrition and exercise. That is addressed in other post though. Today, I am going to talk about some resolutions that relate to reducing stress.
I have never personally been that much into New Year’s Resolutions. Perhaps it is because I have yet to keep one for more than a week, but whatever the reason, I just don’t like them. I find that they mainly add something to my already crazy schedule and are a recipe for failure, at least when made at this time of the year. I am not against resolutions in general, but I tend to find the idea of the “New Year’s Resolution” something forced or guilty and altogether too media driven. I like the idea of positive change though and would rather see any resolution I made in that vain as opposed to something I do because the calendar has changed.
Moms who are taking care of a child with an eating disorder or anyone caring for a close loved one likely is stressed and tired by the time January 1st arrives. The holidays are stressful whether good or bad and when special meal planning, travelling, and the irregular schedules add to the already chaotic nature of the season, it is exhausting. That sigh of relief that all of the “triggers” are reduced and schedules and routines have returned to normal is met with the fact that schedules and routine really have returned to normal, especially yours. This means back to work, back to preparing kids for school, back to driving to after school activities, and back to organizing and running a busy household. It still means planning those meals to fit the specific needs of your child with the eating disorder and it still means worrying because you are a mom. It might also mean that you feel you haven’t had a break.
New Year’s Resolutions don’t always have to be about joining a gym, weight watchers, or following a new diet plan. “Getting in shape” might need to start from the inside out. It might mean making things less stressful and finding ways to lessen the burden. Getting in shape this year might be mental instead of physical. It could even lead to both. It doesn’t have to be big or even visible. It might be just something that only you can see and feel and it might be just one little thing that made a huge difference in your stress level or gave you some enjoyment and relaxation during a difficult period in your life.
There are so many things that moms and caregivers do every day. When your child has an eating disorder, a lot of those things require additional time and can be hard to juggle. Planning meals with all of the requirements that your child needs to return to a healthy state isn’t easy. This is even more difficult when you are working and have to come home and prepare these meals. Running other children to evening activities while trying to have that important “family meal” sometimes requires juggling that a circus clown couldn’t manage. Working with your child who fears eating fast food or meals that are prepared by others makes running around with evening activities difficult. A quick trip to McDonalds on those busy nights might not work right now. What about having someone at home sitting at the table and eating with your child who isn’t supposed to eat alone while you are out with a brother or sister at an evening activity? How tiring is it to come home to all of those dinner dishes after an evening ballgame or boy/girl scouts? The cooking and meal planning is different, at least for awhile, when you have a child with an eating disorder. I would often find that it didn’t look so bad when you saw it on paper, but putting it into practice in the midst of a busy family life was a different story. It could be exhausting. And that was just the meal planning end of things. There are the struggles over exercise, the struggle of actually eating the meal, getting your child to take the supplement, and the heartbreak of seeing your child suffering. How hard is it to keep up with the demands of the house and your job when you are feeling anxious and stressed yourself? When we are anxious and stressed, everything feels burdensome. The little things that we used to do with relative ease don’t come so easily when we are feeling this way. It is perfectly normal to be feeling this way when you are taking care of a loved one who is suffering. You are suffering with them. No resolution is going to fix that. What we can do though is ease the burden and put ourselves in a position where we can restore or recharge the battery a little bit. Here are some ideas for some “different” New Year’s Resolutions. I write from the perspective of a mom, but I think that all caregivers can relate and hopefully find something useful below:
Cook ahead on the weekend: Plan your menus ahead of time for the coming week and cook some of the more time consuming items ahead and freeze them. This is something that a lot of people are doing to help with time management during the workweek. If you have a friend that also works during the week, do it together and make a fun morning or afternoon of it. Have dad throw some of the meat on the grill to help you and make clean up a bit easier.
Hire someone to do your grocery shopping: High school and college kids love to make extra money. Consider hiring them to take your list to the store and do your shopping for you.
Consider ordering from some of the online meal plans: I am not talking about diet plans, I am talking about the meals that are sent to you that you can customize on line. This can be a bit pricey, but helpful if you can afford it. Some of the higher end grocery stores such as Wegman’s offer something similar. You can pick out your entire meal, bring it home and freeze it.
Ask Grandmom or a close relative to help: Grand moms/Granddads, Aunts and Uncles often love to help out. Grandmom might enjoy preparing some meals for you to freeze or may be able to assist you with the driving of other siblings to evening activities.
Talk with a coach or another parent about carpooling for evening activities: Setting up a carpool to assist with evening activities could lessen the amount of time that you have to spend out in the evenings. Perhaps dad or another relative could help as well, but it is important to find a way to decrease the amount of running around.
Consider decreasing some of the evening/weekend activities: Perhaps cutting back on some of the evening activities would be a relief for everyone. Sometimes choosing just one or two favorites makes things less hectic for the entire family.
Hire someone to help with your housework: This isn’t always as expensive as it sounds. College and high school students are often looking for the extra money and it doesn’t have to be every week. You can have someone clean once a month or you can have someone come in and just do certain things that you find more difficult.
Resolve to plan time for one relaxing activity per week: This could be just taking a walk, time in your room to read a book, watch a favorite TV show, take a relaxing bath, go shopping, get a therapeutic massage, acupuncture (yes, I’m serious), whatever makes you relax. You and your spouse or a friend can do this for each other. Whatever you do, it is your uninterrupted time.
Join a support group: You are so busy making sure that your child has all of the treatment he/she needs; maybe a good resolution is to join a support group for parents and caregivers.
Find a good therapist: Again, you have seen to it that your child has a therapist, nutritionist, psychiatrist, etc. Now, resolve that this year you are going to seek a therapist for yourself.
Take one weekend day to sleep in: Take Saturday or Sunday as your morning to sleep in and give your spouse the other day to do the same.
Use paper plates and plastic silverware: This one seems funny for a resolution, but on the nights that you have activities, make sure that paper and plastic cut down on your dishes.
Take turns going to bed early: Take turns with your spouse going to bed early. Make sure that you are both getting restorative sleep as much as you can. Help each other to accomplish this.
Make a date night at least twice a month: Make time for mom and dad to get out alone and have a relaxing evening together.
Resolve this year to ask for help: Make a resolution to ask those trusted people in your life to help you when you are overwhelmed. Even if it is just to listen. They want to be needed!
Resolutions don’t have to be big to make a difference. It is not selfish to make sure that you are resolving to meet your own needs and cut down on your stress. This benefits everyone in your family. It also provides a very good role model for your child with the eating disorder (all of your other children too) as you model to all of them how to properly take care of yourself. Your child with the eating disorder has not internalized this and your modeling this for him/her sends a very positive message. That old cliché that we can’t help others if we don’t help ourselves really is true. It is often very difficult for moms to internalize this because we are often made to feel selfish and entitled when we do. Maybe another resolution is to internalize a different message!