Caregiving is a labor of love but can affect with extreme challenges both physically and emotionally. It does not matter if you are an individual working as a professional caregiver for an agency or by yourself and have this specific role every day or a partner or relative that had become caregiver of a loved one. Or maybe you are a healthcare professional which is considered a provider of care and is used to treat patients. Caregiving can affect in terms of family pressures, financial well – being, and social isolation. Stress can take a toll and result in burnout. Nowadays professional burnout, which often is the result of stress manifested in the form of emotional and physical exhaustion had become a national health crisis among professionals, mostly in the healthcare industry. It can involve competition, poor sleep, pressures, skipping exercise, skipping social events, poor eating, feeling of not good enough, depression, dealing with patient deaths, inability to accomplish obligations out of the healthcare setting, not having quality time with loved ones, a decrease in the sense of personal accomplishments, and in more recent years…all the times spend in administrative activities.
A physician and caregiver for his wife with breast cancer (Finkelstein, 2013) points out, “I compartmentalized my fears about what might happen, and I pushed forward – exactly as I would do with my patients at work. As I was trained to do. But while this strategy works effectively with the strangers that I care for in the operating room, it proved to be less successful at home. I started to have trouble sleeping, and I noticed many odd new physical symptoms – muscle fatigue and weakness, numbness and tingling in my fingers and arms, and palpitations.” This doctor was having symptoms of anxiety and was not expressing them. He then learned through a therapist how to recognize them and take control. Also, he learned to listen with more patience and practice compassion with his own patients.
As one can see, a caregiver gives their love and time with compassion and empathy but needs to learn how to connect to self. The idea of “feel your feelings” by becoming aware of them, take control, have emotional support, and know when to ask for help is important. One great thing that I have learned as a caregiver to my mom that is a widow and had a hip replacement is to practice self care. Remember, you might not be able to do anything about the person’s disability (Craighospital, 2015), but you can do something on how your life is impact. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, whether you are in the healthcare industry or a professional caregiver or caring for a loved one, if you let the stress and complex of emotions lead to exhaustion, many times you might become vulnerable to many problems including alcohol and other drugs.
Self-Care: Self compassion and self care are priorities. Yes, you feel compassion for your loved one, client or patient but in order to help that person you have to help yourself first. This is not selfish or self centered (Chopra Wellness Center, 2017) , it is part of caring for your well being and have a balanced lifestyle to prevent the manifestations of stress. “Self care is not selfish, you cannot serve from an empty vessel” (Eleanor Brownn).
It is healthy to live with limits, balance and boundaries. According to Chopra Wellness Center (2017), there are 6 areas of self care that we should work on.
Six Areas of Self Care
- Physical – adequate sleep, nutrition, and physical movement to raise your energy levels.
- Emotional – “feel your feelings” and talk about them. Get in touch with your thoughts.
- Mental – instead of getting caught in stagnation, try a new challenge or project.
- Spiritual – connect with the self by practicing yoga, tai chi, meditation, relaxation techniques or trying solitude. Remember that solitude is not isolation. It is a time to connect with yourself and recharge. Sometimes it is called “me time.” Some people walk in nature while others read a book. Your type of solitude time is special, and it is your own. If the feeling of loneliness kicks in, be aware of where is coming from and come back to the present moment. Mindfulness helps when our fears and own emotional wounds from the past show up and try to take over.
- Social – cultivate connection with people.
- Practical – pay attention to other areas of your life that are part of your chores and routines such as financial, projects, etc.
It is important to know that you are not alone. It is not easy but to become a compassionate caregiver, love with a whole heart (Orange, 2018).
You may reach Julie at (469) 338-8960, or firstname.lastname@example.org.