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Know your sweet spots

During the first four months of the pandemic, I made more than 250 loaves of sourdough bread. My second favorite item to bake was cinnamon buns. They were warm and gooey and made with high-quality cinnamon.

I still make bread and buns, though now it's a monthly occurrence. The bread is delicious, but the buns are divine.

I know that's a weird brag, yet that's what "they" tell me. When it comes to baking, buns are my sweet spot. I never say no to making them.

We all need sweet spots in our lives. For some, it's being a parent or grandparent. Yet, it might be entirely different for others, like working out on a peloton or in the gym.

Sweet spots are the activities that bring you the most joy at home, in the office, or on the field. Let me know what yours are in the comments section.

As caregivers, we can lose our sweet spots when we get overwhelmed. Whether running from appointment to appointment or having too many sleepless nights caring for our loved ones, it's easy to fall out of our everyday routines. Finding time to exercise becomes harder, as does eating healthy food and keeping up with our self-care.

The ultimate sweet spot, however, is self-care. It can't be abandoned. The cost is too high. When we let our own care lapse, we put our care recipient at risk. Here are some tips to keep self-care at the forefront of your mind.

  • To remind yourself to take daily walks, put your walking shoes at the end of your bed, by your bedroom, or by your front door.

  • Set a daily alarm on your phone each day to take that walk, meditate, go to the gym, or even read for a few minutes.

  • Always carry a book with you. You can read while waiting for medication or in the doctor's office.

  • Put a sticky note on the refrigerator to buy your favorite fresh fruit.

  • Ask for help. Can someone cover you for an hour so you can exercise or attend your medical appointments? People want to help; they don't know how.

  • Download the Self-Care checklist from our website.

  • Download the Caregiver Daily Planner Page on our website.

I'm not one who can organize things effectively on my phone. I've tried to adopt a paperless schedule many times, but I am visual. That's why I use a paper planner. I want to be paperless, but if I can't see my appointments on paper, I'm way more likely to forget them.

It reminds me of when I used to walk the halls with my dad in assisted living and the nursing home. We'd be walking side by side, and if I dropped back for a minute to talk to someone, he'd wonder where I had gone.

"Oh, there you are," he'd say when I caught up.

With Alzheimer's and other dementias, spatial awareness quickly disappears. With Dad, I'd say goodbye to him at night, and upon seeing him for breakfast, he'd always say, "Where you been, Markus?" I hadn't been with him for 12 hours, but in his mind, it was a matter of minutes since our last conversation. It was fascinating to witness.

After reading Hal Elrod's The Miracle Morning at the start of the year, I changed my morning routine. I now spend the first 45-90 minutes of my day reading, journaling, meditating, and exercising. This is before I look at my phone or turn on the computer. It's made a difference in my energy and focus, but more importantly, I feel so much better.

I don't have time to do all that...

I said the same thing. And because sleep is a huge priority (after I learned how important it is for the brain), I was reluctant to wake up early to try it. But I did and haven't looked back since. I also decided to get to bed earlier to soften the blow. My family makes fun of me on Saturdays when I let myself sleep in. In my mind, I get up early during the weekdays, and I deserve (and want) to sleep in on Saturdays. It's about balance.

I don't know how to journal...

There's no right or wrong way to journal. I would suggest starting with five minutes of journaling. Open a notebook or buy an inexpensive journal and ask yourself one of these questions--or write whatever comes to mind. Stop when you have nothing more to write. One minute is better than no minute.

  • What was the best part of my day yesterday?

  • What were my wins/what went well?

  • What bothered me the most during the day?

  • How would I describe my current mood?

I don't like to exercise...

Me neither! Exercise doesn't mean hitting the gym or lifting weights. Start with a few jumping jacks, pushups, or situps to get the brain moving in the morning. Have a treadmill? Start with five minutes a day. Walking is one of the best types of exercise. I started with twenty minutes on the treadmill and am now up to 30 minutes with light jogging.

I think you get the point.

Care for the caregiver is one of the main themes throughout The Greatest Burden The Greatest Blessing, especially as the battles become more difficult. Alan and I are no longer in the throes of active caregiving, but Mike is, and we remind him daily of his obligation to take care of himself.

Let me repeat: as a caregiver, we are obligated to care for ourselves.

Otherwise, we might become the care recipient instead of the caregiver.

I've had a sweet tooth since I was a child. I don't see it going away any time soon. However, only after caring for my dad did I find my sweet spots: sleep, exercise, meditation, reading, and writing.

Like an excellent cinnamon bun, my sweet spots make me happy.

If you enjoy this blog and the material I write about, please consider receiving my weekly email newsletter, MARK. Set. Go. You'll receive a new email each Tuesday. There is no spam, just thoughtful and relatable content.

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