January is a time of fresh starts and new beginnings, but after coping for years with mental illness in the family, many longtime caregivers are depressingly short on hope for significant change. It's true that you can't make a New Year's resolution to cure someone else's problem—or to become a person of truly limitless patience and energy. However, you can replenish lost energy (and become a more effective caregiver) by bringing something new and refreshing into your own life. Here are a few suggestions:
· Take a new class. Find an alternate caregiver for two hours a week, and sign up for yoga, painting, or whatever else you always wanted to learn.
· Read a new book. Humor and inspiration are best. Check "Recommended Reading" lists at your favorite library or social networking site.
· Play a new game. Let kids teach you their favorites, or do an online search for "games."
· Sample a new fragrance, bath oil, or herbal tea. Guaranteed stress relievers!
These try-something-new resolutions are also helpful if you personally have a mental illness. With major depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder, however, any positive change can be like climbing a sheer wall. If you're really struggling, the secret is not to attempt big steps; they usually end with a plunge into worse discouragement. Set tiny goals—"get out of bed before noon every Saturday this month"—then celebrate success as a major triumph. It is!