Who's Taking Care Of You?
Hey, lady who is always doing everything for everyone—it's time to give yourself a break. Our resident mental health pro, Gail Saltz, MD, can help.
Getty Images I do so much for my family that I have almost no time and energy left for me. How can I add myself to the list?
Everyone knows that old saying about putting on your own oxygen mask before you help others, but guilt and worry can hold you back. Yet chances are you're shouldering responsibilities you don't need to, so you're more in control of having a break than you think.
Your first order is to off-load a bit. Go through your day, considering your typical to-dos. Perhaps your oldest child can help the younger one get ready for bed, say, or your husband can handle laundry duty once a week. If it's hard to let go, reality-check yourself: So what if someone doesn't do it exactly like I do? Will that really matter? You'll likely realize the answer is no. Being a do-it-all martyr does nobody in your family any favors—the stress inevitably seeps out.
Once you've delegated, at the beginning of the week (when you're strong), slate in the yoga class and meet-up with friends to make sure you get "me" time.
My sister and I both look after our mother, who has Alzheimer's. But I handle most of it, and I'm becoming resentful. When I bring this up with my sister, she gets defensive. Ideas?
Caring for a gravely ill parent is exhausting and painful—sometimes so much so that family members go into denial and turn away. If your sister doesn't live nearby, you could say, "I know it's not easy for you to be here. Could you contribute money toward care?"
Otherwise, have a face-to-face and make the conversation more about you. Let her know that regularly tending to your mother is a strain. Ask her to brainstorm solutions; perhaps she could bring meals on weekends. Discussing ideas may have the added benefit of getting her to open up. She might say that she finds it hard to visit your mother because Mom doesn't always recognize her and it's upsetting—leading to a discussion that can be cathartic for both of you.
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Is there anything I can say to a 40-something man to get him to start picking up after himself?
It's hard to change old habits, but not impossible—even the socks-on-the-floor one. The key is to avoid confronting your partner on the spot; it's tricky to not sound frustrated or mad, and if you do, he won't hear you because he'll be busy defending himself. Instead, choose a calm moment and explain how you feel: "When you leave clothes/crumbs/whatever lying around and figure that I'll pick up after you, it makes me feel taken advantage of." Be specific about what you'd like him to do. You might say, "Can you just toss your clothes into the laundry basket?" When he does it, give him a big "Thanks, I appreciate that!" or a gratitude kiss for reinforcement. If he needs reminders, humor always helps. You: "That's some obstacle course on the floor—could you grab that stuff?" Him (hopefully): "Sure, no problem!"