Self-Care with Accountability
This summer, I had the opportunity to co-facilitate a course called Powerful Tools for Caregivers at the Wilder Foundation's Community Center for Aging. This six-week course gives people who are providing care for a family member or friend a set of tools for communication and self-care.
One of the most important of these tools is the action plan, in which a caregiver states something specific that he or she will do in the next week for herself or himself. My co-facilitator and I joined class participants in this weekly exercise, and I was struck by how beneficial it was for me.
Awareness Motivates Action
Whether my goal was something as simple as taking a half hour out of a busy week to do something fun, or to initiate a difficult conversation, the awareness that I would be reporting back to the class had a great impact. I never wanted to show up without having done what I said I would do, even though each week the promise I had made was to myself, not to the individuals in the class. I could see the class participants and my co-facilitator experiencing something similar, and each week almost all of us met our goals or at least made progress.
Whether or not we had accomplished what we set out to do, at a minimum our awareness of that plan and why we had set it was heightened, moving the goals we set for ourselves up on our list of priorities.
When we reflected on our use of the action plans at our final class meeting, many of us expressed an interest in finding a way to continue to tap into this accountability. I recalled a time when my mother and I used weekly emails to set goals and report back to each other on our progress. Even living in different parts of the country, we were able to support each other in our goals by using a simple system for mutual accountability.
We all left the class series with an assignment to set a bigger goal and break it down into specific, weekly tasks. As I work my way through a move to a new home, support my partner as he begins grad school, and parent a very busy preschooler, the accountability for self-care that was so important in our Powerful Tools for Caregivers class reminds me that I need to still carve out time for my individual goals and needs.
What difference would it make in your life if you felt accountable for self-care? How can you use external reinforcement to enhance that accountability?