By Karen Bromberg
Back in January, I wrote a blog post titled “Five Rights Overwhelmed Caregivers Have (But May Not Realize).” In it, I spoke to those feelings we, overwhelmed caregivers, may have but often don’t speak about. I also gave some ideas and support for how we can lower our stress thereby, hopefully, avoiding caregiver burnout.
As I’ve said before (and I’ll say it again), we family caregivers have such full plates. We do so much for so many that often there’s no time to do anything for ourselves. As a result, we eat poorly and exercise not at all (who has the time or energy?).
We put on weight. Anxiety rises. Stress mounts and along with that comes sleepless nights, the ultimate result being that we put our own health at risk.
As we know, stress can be so insidious. If we’ve been stressed for a long period of time (the way most of us family caregivers are), we stop noticing it. We forget what it feels like not to be stressed and we even begin to feel that the tightness in our shoulders is normal.
Now, before I go any further, I want to say upfront that in no way am I advocating we put our needs ahead of our care recipients’.
Our care recipients need us and, of course, we want to be there for them. We want to make sure that they are happy, safe and well cared for. After all, we are caregivers and these are the people we love.
That said, we also have to be sure that we are taking care of ourselves as well. So, with that in mind, I want to continue our discussion.
So . . .
As caregivers, we have the right:
- to feel exhausted.
And, more often than not, that’s exactly how we do feel. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Spiritually. Generally speaking, we caregivers are a population of very pooped individuals.
Oh, we may get six to eight hours of sleep at night, though honestly most of us don’t. But, even if we do, we might still find ourselves continually spent.
That happened to me. I’d sleep but I’d still feel tired when I woke up in the morning. I couldn’t understand it, but instead of being compassionate with myself I ended up judging myself (truly the last thing I needed to be doing).
In hindsight, what would’ve served me better would’ve been to view my fatigue as a kind of badge of honor. You know, as a positive instead of a negative.
But, with that said,
WE ALSO HAVE THE RIGHT TO
not be exhausted. Look, our responsibilities are our responsibilities. Those we cannot change. What we can change is how we approach them.
So, how about, instead of being upset that Mom’s doctor called to rearrange her appointment, we look upon it as having a couple of free hours we didn’t anticipate? What if instead of allowing ourselves to feel grumpy all day, we turn our frowns upside down and look at the world through pink, red or yellow colored glasses instead of black or dark brown?
A while ago, I realized that there are very many things I don’t have control over but the one thing I do is how I view the world. View it as an awful place and it becomes that way with the final result being that I end up exhausted.
View it as a less than awful place, then I can start making better and healthier choices for myself.
- to feel stressed.
Isn’t that the dictionary definition of family caregiver?
Having most (if not all) of the decisions on our shoulders, having to navigate family members with potentially very different opinions on what’s best, tending to a care recipient who might not want to do what you’d like, not to mention all the other responsibilities we have as adults, really is there any wonder why we are stressed?
But that said,
WE ALSO HAVE THE RIGHT TO
not be stressed, feel settled and steady no matter the circumstance. And no, it’s not going to come from a sprinkling of pixie dust or from drowning in your favorite brand of alcohol.
It’s going to come from quieting the mind and calming the body. Two techniques I’ve found to be extremely helpful with this is the yogic practices of deep relaxation and deep breathing. As a yoga instructor for over fifteen years, and practicing them myself for even longer, I’ve seen and felt the amazing effects these two practices can have on dialing back the stress. I highly recommend them. They take just a few minutes and they can make such a difference.
For instructions, please go to www.helpyouthru.com/caregiver’scorner. Scroll down to the middle of the page. There you will find short video clips.
- to not listen to hurtful/unhelpful people.
Don’t you just love the people who, even though they haven’t “walked a mile in your shoes,” aren’t afraid to tell you how to act, think, feel and behave? That what you are doing for your care recipient is wrong? That somehow they know better?
Now tell me, do you believe them? Even a little bit. In the back of your mind? Do you find yourself wondering, “Hmmm . . . perhaps he (or she) is right?” and then feel bad about yourself, thinking that you are not doing all you can for your care recipient?
I did. And it made my life SO much harder.
Look, people are going to give their opinions. We can’t stop that, much as we might like to but that said,
WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO
walk away and not listen. We also have the right to feel comfortable in our own skin. We can blast the person for their insensitivity but, frankly, I wouldn’t. Instead, I’d take a breath, count to ten and bless the person for trying to mean well, then get busy and do something positive.
That way we can keep our peace and really there’s nothing better than that!
Karen Bromberg is the founder of Help You Thru, LLC, an online resource for family caregivers offering resources, relaxation and relaxation techniques to overwhelmed caregivers. Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want more information about how you can make your caregiving journey easier? Join our mailing list.