Tips for Time Out
Remember the oxygen mask
As carers and whānau, some of us are not always great about doing what we need to do in order to keep ourselves healthy. For those of us who have travelled on an aeroplane, we can remember the instructions to put the oxygen mask on ourselves before we attempt to help anyone else. This metaphor is used a lot when thinking about carers and whānau.
If we look after ourselves we are often in a better place to care for someone else.
Walking to Wellness
There are many different ways people take ‘time out’. Some of these ways are really good for us – and some not so good if we overuse them. An example of a really beneficial approach is the use of physical exercise as ‘time out’. An approach that could result in a less positive outcome is the overuse of alcohol to achieve time out.
There are many types of ‘exercise’ that can become a great way to achieve time out. A good example is walking. Not only can walking provide us with a chance to release emotional tension and gain a clear head but it is really good for us physically. Depending on where we live, walking outside may also help us stay connected to our neighbours and community.
Some of us will need to ‘plan’ walking events into our week and stick to a routine.
Having a ‘planned’ arrangement, especially if it involves other people, may help you in several ways:
1 Keep focussed on actually doing it
2 It may give us some people to talk with
3 It can be a very specific, practical and regular event, which means we feel OK about asking a friend or family member to be with the person we care for while we do this
However we do it, it is worth it!
The Heart Foundation of New Zealand suggests ‘just 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, even in 10 minute chunks, can help to reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes as well as reducing your risk of developing a stroke and high blood pressure’.
Other great ways to exercise, and take time out, include:
- Biking (outside or on an exercycle inside)
- A session at the gym
Asking for help from friends and family
Some of the things mentioned above can work best when we can get out of the house to do them. Below are some ideas about how you can ask people to support you – so you can have some time out:
- Have a set time that will become a routine for everyone involved (including your family member). When you ask someone to help, you can be really clear about when you want them, what they will be doing when they are with your family member and how long you would appreciate them being there.
- Some people are really happy to help if they can plan things ahead and if it is a specific task. Some people get anxious. If they know what they will be doing they may feel more relaxed about agreeing to help.
- Think about the things your family member or friend likes doing. If you can link them into helping you and also doing what they like …. you may be closer to a winner.
- Be brave – think about people you may not usually ask. Some people feel pleased you asked them, even if they don’t/can’t help.
- Pick your time to ask. Ideally, both of you are relaxed at the time you bring up your request. It is possible, if people see you are really stressed, they may agree to do something in the short term. Ideally, we sort these things out BEFORE we have a crisis.
- It can be ‘safer’ to ask people in a descriptive way (not an emotional plea for support). This tends to make it easier for a person to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as well as it can feel better (for you) if they don’t agree to support you for this time. For example:
‘It would be great if you could come to my place to keep an eye on … x … for two hours on Wednesday so I can go to the gym’
not ‘ I am at my wits end. If I don’t get out I’ll go nuts. I really need you to do some stuff for me at the moment’.
In-home time out (my time)
There are times when we need to have our time/time out without leaving the home or the person we are caring for.
There are ‘physical’ things we can do. These include things like:
- An exercycle
- A yoga video
- Stretching exercises
There are relaxation focussed things like:
- Breathing techniques
- Playing, or listening to, music
- Having a relaxed bath or shower
Everyone lives in a different situation. In some circumstances it can be a good idea to:
- Establish a set time to do the things you want to do. If you persevere, the person you are caring for may come to respect this is ‘your time’.
- Use opportunities when the person you care for is involved in other things ie. school.
- If it is safe, you can create some ‘space’ by putting on noise-cancelling or music-playing headphones.
From time to time, it can be great to plan to do a ‘bigger’ thing for ourselves.
These might be things like going out for a meal or a concert or some other thing that will refresh us. Also, some people work hard to create the opportunity to have a holiday.
When you get the (possibly rare) chance to do something bigger for yourself, try to share it with positive people.
Within our personal networks (families and friends) we will sometimes have very different types of people. When you are nurturing yourself, attempt to share this with constructive people who know how to ‘give’ to you.