On Staying Healthy

One of the first things you hear when you become a custodial grandparent is “take care of your health.” When you are seventy and the child is five, the reasons are obvious. There are numerous websites with advice on how to do that. You can find what foods to eat, how much sleep to get, and which exercises are the most productive.

I have no intention of competing with the advice doctors give on how to take of your body. Here are a few practical ideas from this old, busy person that work for me.

Continue Doing Something You Love
I’ve cut out many activities since Mary Ellen came to live with us. I did that because she needed a lot of love and attention. But the one thing I told my husband I refused to give up was my writing. I write in the mornings when she is at school and have published my first novel. Being able to hang on to my dream of getting that book, which I had worked on for years, published kept the anger at bay. Yes, I still get angry occasionally, not at Mary Ellen, but at the fact that our retirement isn’t what we envisioned and saved for. I forgive myself and remember how much joy she brings to our lives.

Spend Time With Friends Every Week
Baby sitters are expensive, so my husband and I rarely go out together in the evenings. However, I manage an evening book club and a happy hour with the girls once a month. I attend Sunday services regularly, and we all, including Mary Ellen, join friends for lunch afterwards. And the weekends she spends with her parents give us the opportunity to rest or have a date. I have lunch occasionally with a couple of special friends, people I can vent with or just “catch up.” I have no concern about the conversations going any farther and know I will get honest, thoughtful responses to questions. Of course, communication with my spouse is more important than ever, especially since we’ve never reared a child together before.

Minimize The Stress
This is critical. When my sleep gets interrupted several times a night or I find myself staring at the computer screen unable to type a sentence, I know too much stress is affecting me. Here are some actions I have found useful in getting me back on track.
*Establish a routine; *Get organized; *Utilize premade dinners once or twice a week; *Plan meals a week at a time. *Keep the house clean. I don’t mean spotless, and most kids can help some. But filth breads depression.

We try to teach Mary Ellen good habits. In retirement, mine had become a bit lax. It was time to remember how to stuff too many things into too little time. You know how to do it because you’ve done it. I realize many of you are not retired, and this responsibility is one more in an already packed schedule. *Prioritize and eliminate!

*Carve out time each day for your spouse, if you have one–for yourself, if you don’t. Having a set bedtime for your grandchild helps here.

*Exercise. I’m not an exercise person, and I feel guilty every time I hear somebody say it’s the best way to keep your heart and brain healthy. But I believe it. My dad played tennis three times a week until he was ninety-four and lived to 102 still thinking clearly. So, how can I follow the advice and not spend too much time or thought on it? I walk—fifteen minutes in a hilly area. It works! I have more energy and ability to concentrate even after that minimal amount. I tell myself that eventually it will be thirty minutes and I’ll be jogging. Don’t hold your breath.

**And a hot bubble bath with a glass of wine never hurts.