Every morning a paid caregiver comes to our home to help get my disabled husband up for the day. Although caregivers can change, one caregiver comes most often, and we love her. “What are you doing today?” she asked as she walked in the door.
“Nothing,” I answered. A puzzled expression came across her face. An experienced caregiver, she knows caregivers have never-ending task lists, and there’s always something to do. “I’ll do my caregiving tasks,” I continued, “and that’s it.”
The idea of a Nothing Day came to me during the holidays when I was rushing around. Although I average seven hours of sleep a night, I was still tired, and my arthritic hips were giving me trouble. Doing nothing—a day of rest—sounded very appealing. What might the day be like?
I wouldn’t go to the grocery store. I wouldn’t prepare future meals and freeze them. I wouldn’t do five loads of laundry. I wouldn’t dust or vacuum. I wouldn’t sort mail or pay bills. I wouldn’t do any heavy lifting. And I wouldn’t worry about our messy garage. This is my 19th year of caregiving, and I can tell when I need to slow down and rest for a while. Other caregivers have come to the same conclusion.
In The Caregiving Wife’s Handbook, Diana B. Denholm devotes a chapter to “dos” and “don’ts.” She asks caregivers to take a respite. “Do create a chance of pace for yourself one day or night a week,” she advises. Gail Sheehy, in her book, Passages in Caregiving, offers similar advice. “Whenever you feel overwhelmed by caregiving responsibilities, take time out to sit still and breathe calmly and deeply for at least ten minutes,” she writes.
I’ve followed her advice. Instead of deep breathing, I practice diaphragm breathing, a skill you may wish to learn and perfect.
My first Nothing Day was a huge success. Lunch was leftover bacon quiche and winter fruit salad from Christmas brunch. Dinner was French dip sandwiches and salad, leftover from a previous dinner. I did one load of laundry (my husband’s clothes) and left the rest for the another day. I read some Christmas magazines. I watched holiday programs on television. I sat in a rocking chair and meditated. I posted a video of me reading an excerpt from my affirmations book for caregivers on YouTube, something I’ve wanted to do for weeks. But the most beneficial thing I did was to take an hour and a half nap.
Of course a Nothing Day isn’t a blank day, and essential caregiving tasks still need to get done. Yet days like these force us to practice self-care. We can rest our bodies and our minds. In quiet, restful moments we rediscover ourselves and rekindle creativeness. A Nothing Day is really an everything day, time to think about life, assess our caregiving, and take credit for all we do.
From now on, I’m going schedule Nothing Days, and hope you will do the same. Write Nothing Day on your calendar now!