A Caregiver Needs Body Care Too

Last week in yoga class my Zen card said “body care.” I wondered if it was trying to tell me something. Am I not listening to the signs of stress that are all around me? As a member of the sandwich generation, worrying about my adult kids (I’m a mom I have to worry about my kids even if they are all grown up) and worrying about my elderly mom (who has been ill since the new year), I often forget to give my own body the “body care” it needs.

Not sleeping enough, not eating the right foods, not taking time to slow down and relax. Running, running, running. “Must squeeze all my exercise into the weekend,” I told my body last Saturday. “Think I will do it all – yoga, bicycling, walking, running, lifting weights.” My body did not react well – it fought back with aches and pains.

This week I listened to an online chat with Dr. John Whyte, author of AARP New American Diet: Lose Weight, Live LongerDr. Whyte provided some helpful tips on ways busy caregivers can take better care of themselves. Here’s some of Dr. Whyte’s advice:

– Dr. Whyte says that “people who walk more throughout life have greater brain volume than those who walk less.” He says that “there are approximately 2000 steps in one mile and that most active people average about 2000 steps a day.” (I consider myself an active person but I don’t know if I am walking a mile a day. Ooh, ooh, ooh, I think I will take that old pedometer out of my junk drawer tomorrow and see if I am walking 2000 steps.)

– Dr. Whyte says that “our basal metabolic rate (BMR), basically our internal furnace, slows down as we age.” That’s why we can gain weight more easily. He says that to balance our BMR we either need to eat less or exercise more. (I vote for the exercise – but I must stop being a weekend athlete and improve my fitness management.)

– Dr. Whyte says that “foods from the Mediterranean diet are some of the best foods to eat such as: fish for heart health” (yep, I eat fish at least 2-3 times a week); blueberries – Dr. Whyte says that “these berries are packed with powerful antioxidants to keep the blood vessels in our heart and brain healthy” (yep, I eat organic blueberries every day for lunch with my yogurt); “nuts in moderation” (yep, I sprinkle walnuts on my salad); and “drink more water” (yep, I carry my water bottle to work each day).

– Dr, Whyte says that “it is not surprising that added stress can cause weight gain.” He says that “It is often related to the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that usually can be very helpful. It provides glucose to the body for energy when there is a stressful situation that requires you to have more energy or to be more alert. However, chronic stress will cause cortisol levels to be high chronically and this is not a good thing for your body.”

Dr. Whyte says that “In this situation, the elevated cortisol levels cause high blood sugar which will cause a series of other reactions which will cause you to store fat as well as hold onto it, making it very difficult to shed the pounds.”

My cortisol levels are definitely elevated of late – juggling full-time work events and readying my second career as a writer and blogger post retirement, refinancing my “condo on the corner at the shore,”  managing my mom’s health concerns and caregiving from afar – she is in Flo-ree-da and my sister N and I are in NJ and NY…and how can I forget all the paperwork involved with preparing my 2012 taxes for the accountant this month.

I must take heed and listen to my Zen card.  If I don’t take my “body care” seriously no one else will…and I want my body to stay healthy during my life after 50.

So,so, so, tonight I am going to enjoy a nutrient rich dinner with my boyfriend L. What’s on the menu? Glad you asked. We’ll start with a nice green salad with a few Greek black olives and sprinkling of walnuts, followed by baked salmon topped with hickory barbecue sauce and accompanied by a beta-carotene rich sweet potato. If we have dessert it will surely be dark chocolate.

Then I am going to relax and listen to  the wonderful music of Deva Premal & Miten as their spiritual chants lull me to sleep.

AARP Caregiving

While I am a member of AARP’s Kitchen Cabinet on Caregiving, note that all opinions are my own. I encourage all those who are caregivers to check out the AARP Caregiving Resource Center for more helpful tips. It truly is a wonderful resource, especially for those who are new to caregiving.



3 thoughts on “A Caregiver Needs Body Care Too

  1. This is important post. For some of use, when we are in the middle of caring for a dying and sick parent we cannot do any self care. I was with my Mom and her only and sole caretaker 24/7 for 3 months while she was dying. Most days I could not get a shower in much less time to eat.I had no help from siblings and could not afford paid help so it was all my responsibility. It destroyed my health and well being for a long time .. After she died I spent a long time on self care and do today as a primary focus in my life. . Its important for our own well being to keep up with eating well, sleep and excercise., I believe that quiet time is essential to well being and time away from others, in quiet reading or excercising, whatever you choose. I adore this music and will incorporate it into my routine,. Good post.

  2. Your post is wonderful. It made me smile, pause, think, smile some more… and FOCUS on my own health. When I realized several years ago that my Mom needed me and my help on a daily basis, I had this nagging little thought that taking care of myself (running, swimming, etc.) was… I’ll just say it… selfish. An extended talk with our family physician changed all that, telling me that exercising and doing things I love is crucial to not only MY health, but my Mom’s, too. I needed to be more present, more content, more ZEN-ish. I haven’t stopped since, and my Mom is my biggest fan on my little healthy adventures. I recently registered to swim a 1.7 mile open water event – Save the Bay Swim – in Rhode Island, to raise $$ to help save our Narragansett Bay. My Mom is, as I said, my biggest fan! (I am terrified!) Thanks for your thoughts, words and wisdom!

    • Sharon, thanks for your comment. Keep up the exercise and good luck with your big swim event. I say go for it at this age!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.