Sunday, August 15, 2021

Weekly Inspiration: A Much-Needed Respite

When Life Gets to Be Too Much

My husband and I have been unable to travel--or really do much of anything on our own--for almost two years now. Yes, there's the pandemic and my chronic illnesses, but our biggest restriction lately is caring for my 96-year-old father-in-law. He needs help every day, and we weren't going to move him to Assisted Living when they were all locked-down and we wouldn't have been able to see him. We are in the process of finding a place for him now, but for the last 18 months or so, my husband been driving the 20 minutes to his apartment in Independent Living at least once a day and twice on weekends, plus we always spend time with him on weekends. We're happy to do it and glad we can spend time with him, but it is a lot of stress with no downtime, especially as his needs have greatly increased this past year. 

I've tried to schedule some short getaways nearby, within 30 minutes of his place, but it's much too hot for camping right now, and my husband's work schedule's been full, too (we can only go on weekdays when an aide is available to help). 

In addition, with all this time spent caring for him, we don't have enough time or energy to properly take care of our house, our yard, and everything else in life! 


Enjoying a Respite

So, a few weeks ago, with both of us feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and seriously depleted, I declared we were going to have an 18-hour respite

I explained that, from 5 pm Saturday when he got back from his dad's until 11 am Sunday when he'd need to head over there again, we were going to just relax, enjoy ourselves, and not try to accomplish anything or be productive. He brought takeout dinner home, we watched a movie together, spent some time reading, and got up in the morning in the same frame of mind. After a simple breakfast, we treated ourselves to coffee (which I rarely drink) and chocolate croissants (you must try Trader Joe's ones in the freezer - bake them yourself and it's like you're in a fancy coffee shop!), while we watched a couple of episodes of Lakefront Bargain Hunt, our go-to guilty pleasure! We spent time relaxing out on our screened porch, which we normally don't have time to enjoy.

Relaxing on the screened porch

It worked wonderfully and allowed us to recharge, and we did the same this past 18 hours (my husband is out now picking up his dad to bring him here for lunch).

The key here is a change in mental attitude: act like you're on vacation, ignore the to-do lists and piles and mess everywhere, and focus on pleasant, relaxing things. Get takeout or stick with simple meals, with minimal cooking and dishes. Let the laundry, cleaning, phone calls, and bills wait.

It's a simple concept, but it is really helping us! Friday, we were both exhausted, overwhelmed, and feeling depressed. But now, the word respite is like a code word for us that helps us switch to off-duty, fun mode and just relax for a bit; even just an 18-hour break helps! Without this conscious switch, we'd either keep trying to get stuff done (me putting my laptop away is a crucial step!) or feel guilty for all the things we should be doing. Taking a respite allows us to turn off our brains for a bit.

This can also work very well if you have kids at home (whether healthy or sick). They will love the switch to vacation mode and get into the spirit! When our sons were young, and three of the four of us were chronically ill at the same time, we had a tradition (thought up on the spur of the moment one difficult February) of packing up the car for a weekend at the beach in February or March, just when the long winter of viruses, crashes, and missed schoolwork felt like more than we could take anymore. We'd just relax in our hotel room, play cards, eat at our favorite restaurants, take a short walk on the beach (bundled up!), and sit on the floor of the awesome local bookstore, browsing in our favorite sections. It wasn't much (and the beach in the off-season is cheap), but that change in attitude helped us all so much!

My sons and I on a deserted beach, enjoying a getaway!

Even if you can't physically get away, like us right now, you can still give yourself a much-needed respite today, right at home. Try it!


Take a Break!

For more ideas on ways to give yourself a break from routine, even when you can't leave the house, check out my recent video, Take a Break!



Are YOU in need of a respite??


Sandy said...

Great idea! My chronic illness can be pretty unpredictable, so when I feel good I try to do everything. I’ll tell myself that as soon as I finish x or y I’ll relax and do what I want to do. But I rarely honor it. This is a good reminder to schedule it and stay with it.

Sue Jackson said...

Sandy -

Yes, I do that, too!! It's so hard for me to give in and rest when I need to. I'm not good at doing it on my own - that's why declaring a "respite" with my husband works for me!

Try it - good luck!