Emotions are information. They’re telling you something and you need to examine them to figure out what it is they’re telling you. Are you feeling sad or unhappy? Why? Do you feel out of control? Are you feeling sorry for yourself? What’s the cause? Are you overwhelmed? Do you feel guilty?
Don’t ignore your emotions! When you do, you’re creating the equivalent of a volcano, and at an inappropriate time or situation you will explode! So, deal with your feelings before that happens!
- Figure out what your feelings are telling you.
- Is what you’re feeling accurate or appropriate?
- Look for solutions.
- Can you do anything about it?
- What can you do about it?
For example, the condition of the person you’re taking care of changes. Maybe you need to spend more time taking care of them. You can’t control the fact that they need more help, but you can control who takes care of them. Can you hire someone? If you can’t afford to hire someone, can another family member or even a friend, stop by to relieve you, or just to help? And for heaven’s sake, ask them! People typically won’t offer help. I know, it would be nice if they did, but they won’t! They assume that if you need help you’ll ask them, so go ahead and ask! Start thinking outside the box. Accept the situation, but think about things you can do to take some of the burden off yourself.
I don’t know about you, but I was raised to feel guilty about “everything!” As an adult, I’ve learned that guilt is very destructive. It’s self-imposed and typically not appropriate. You may feel guilty that you’re healthy and the other person isn’t. You may feel guilty because you still want to do things and have a life. You may feel guilty because you’re not able to be there 24/7 or maybe you feel guilty because you resent being there 24/7. It’s perfectly normal to have these feelings! It does NOT make you a bad person! It makes you human! Work on letting go of guilt. Examine the reasons for it. See if you can find solutions and give yourself permission to have those feeling! They’re just feeling and the only person they can harm, if you feel guilty about them, …is you!
Caregivers often suffer from depression. Their life seems to be on hold. They’re overwhelmed and overburdened with things that they think must get done. But you know what? Not all of it has to get done! Prioritize and only do the necessities. Don’t stretch yourself too thin! Don’t be shy, ask for help! Have positive people in your life that you can turn to. And for goodness sake take time for yourself, and try to have some fun on a regular basis!
Life can change at any given moment. You may think you have things under control, and suddenly, wham! There’s a new, unforeseen wrinkle thrown in the mix! When change occurs, you will most likely go through at least some of the five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Maybe the patient suddenly requires more care than before. You feel bad for them, but you may also grieve for yourself and the impact that it has on your life. This is perfectly normal! You’re allowed to "deny, be angry and depressed," but only for a short time. Don’t live there!
There are things you can do that will help you cope:
- Exercise: I know it can be difficult to find time to exercise, but exercise helps build strength, and helps to reduce anxiety and stress. Even if you only have time for a ten or fifteen-minute walk, do it! You’ll feel better and more relaxed.
- Meditate: Meditation is one of the best ways to achieve acceptance and peace. Meditate on a regular basis. I started meditating twice a day, in the morning and before bed and it makes a significant difference! I also highly recommend meditation for the patient as well, if they’re willing to try it. Studies have shown that meditation can help ease pain and promote healing. Meditation also helps with anxiety, depression and letting go of what you can’t control.
- Paying attention to your breath: Throughout the day and especially when you’re anxious take several deep breaths through your mouth and out your nose. Notice the air temperature going in and out. Follow your breath from your nose to the bottom of your lungs and then follow it back out. This is very calming and can be done anytime and anywhere.
- Laugh: Laughter truly is the best medicine. Take a few minutes every day to just laugh. I remember Tony Robbins talk about an experiment where they took depressed people and made them look in the mirror and make the biggest smile possible. The exercise got the people laughing because they thought they looked silly, but it also helped to lift them out of their depression, almost immediately! You can’t be depressed when you’re smiling and laughing. It’s physically impossible!
- Focus on your body: Take time out to relax your body. Scan your body starting at your toes and notice the body parts that are tight and breathe into them and relax.
You don’t have to go on the rollercoaster alone! These are great tools to use, but sometimes professional help is needed! Don’t hesitate to talk to a professional. Being a caregiver isn’t easy. You need to take care of yourself or you won’t be able to take care of anyone else! And remember, regardless of the condition of the person you're caring for, you still deserve to be happy!
You don't need to be a "caregiver" to relate, taking care of children can at times feel the same way. Please leave a comment, I'd love to hear from you and see how you're coping!