So few hours in the day, and so much to do — both personally and professionally. Family caregivers can often feel lost in the caregiving journey. These principles for self-care offer some suggestions on how you can take care of yourself and, in the process, help you best take care of others.
Take Care of Yourself
Caring for friends or family members who are ill, helpless, fragile, or frightened, can be exhausting physically, emotionally and spiritually. That’s why it’s essential to take care of yourself first, so that you’re able to care for others out of your overflow. One way to take care of yourself is to come to Friends In Deed for support.
Focus on Care Not Cure
As a caregiver, it’s important to recognize the distinction between healing and curing. In the simplest terms, curing is changing what is (i.e. the elimination of a disease) while healing implies the ability to relate differently to things as they are. Your role as a caregiver is to deal with things as they are and be clear about the task at hand.
Work to Be in the Moment
Getting caught in what’s happened in the past, or what you imagine will happen in the future, robs you of the resources you need for the present moment of action. In addition, with some caregiving situations, you may be faced with fearful circumstances. The person for whom you’re caring may already be dealing with his or her own fear. You don’t want to add your anxiety to the mix. Staying in the present moment is a great way to help tame your fears.
Express Your Feelings Appropriately
As a caregiver, you may find people behaving in ways that are difficult to handle. Remember, usually the circumstances of the illness are creating the behavior. Your job is to not take it personally. However, if you’re in a situation where you’re compelled to express your feelings, be sure to say how you feel without making the person you’re caring for “wrong.” The best way to do this is with “I” messages, not “You” messages. (i.e. “I get the feeling that…” instead of “You make me feel…” )
Seek to Find Meaning in the Experience
Even in the most difficult and challenging situations you can find meaning, value and purpose. You can always see that the roles could be reversed and imagine how you would like to be
treated. One of the things you’ll discover, as a caregiver, is that the quality of life is not determined by the circumstances but how you and the person for whom you care perceive the circumstances.
Understand That Nothing Is Going Wrong
Given our culture, this is the toughest principle to understand. It’s easy to get caught in “if only she had taken the test sooner…” or “the doctor should have…” or “why didn’t he…” These are very human reactions to frustrating and sad circumstances. Spiritually speaking everything is unfolding exactly as it must at all times. We don’t know how the story is supposed to go. We reduce suffering all around if we can be with what is — without judgment. There is real power in not having to fix or change anything.
These principles were put together in collaboration with Friends In Deed — The Crisis Center for Life-Threatening Illness. Their focus is to provide emotional and spiritual support for anyone diagnosed with life-threatening physical illnesses, as well as support for the caregivers, family and friends of those who are ill. Are you a family caregiver? Click here for more resources.