- Acknowledge and Respect Your Compassion Nature
Most people have the capacity to feel empathy for another person when there is a tragedy such as a plane crash or mass shooting. Some people have the capacity to rise to the occasion and offer a helping hand to someone in need. However, very few people have the ability to mobilize their compassion into the action we call caregiving.
The uncommon ability to be a caregiver is the highest form of generosity. It is a gift and it needs to be honored for the gift that it is. This means that you must respect your caring nature by taking really good care of yourself as well. All too often, caregivers put their own needs last. Granted, this extra effort may be needed on occasion.
Putting yourself last time after time can mutate your awakened heart in a toxic sense of self-sacrifice. Remember, putting your caregiver-self first is an act of selflessness and it is healthy. It allows you to keep your compassionate heart full and ready to serve.
- Ask and Accept Help
The responsibilities that accompany your role as caregiver can be daunting. There always seems to be a relentless list of things to do, appointments to coordinate, and care to be rendered. You are gifted with a highly evolved sense of the duty, responsibility and loyalty. However, these qualities can channel you into a life of isolation if you resist asking for help.
Asking for help is not a sacrilege. It’s honest. No one, no matter how dedicated or organized, can manage alone. Many folks like yourself resist asking for help because they feel that they do not want to impose on benevolent friends of family. The irony is that these same folks are often trying to find a way to lend a hand without sending the unintended message that you are not doing a good job.
No everyone can do hands-on care but most everyone can do something. I encourage you to investigate support networks such as Share the Care. This non-profit organization trains groups such as family, friend, neighbors, and church members to create Care Circles. The goal is to surround the person in need of care and their primary caregiver with a sense of community and support.
A calendar and task list is set up so that everyone can weave their part of the caring into their daily life. Who does the food shopping? Who transports to the doctor’s appointment and when? Who mows the lawn, etc. I ask you to please consider this option so that you can pace yourself. Remember, caregiving is not a sprint. It is a marathon and it takes a team to keep you in the race.
- Stay Connected with Friends
It is often said that laughter is the best medicine. Without a doubt, this is true. However, the demands and realities of constantly caring for others can often leave you struggling to find a reason to smile let alone laugh. Fatigue is your worst enemy. It can leave wanting to “crash” and be alone during any down time. Please resist this temptation. Yes, the extra effort to get ready for some social time with friends may seem daunting but the payoff is priceless.
Caregiving is what you do not who you are and it is your friend who will keep you connected to the outside world. Friend will often listen and just let you vent without judgement. Friend can show you the exit sign out of your head and your relentless thoughts centered on caregiving and reintroduce you to the rest of your life. Friend can help you keep a perspective on your situation so that the frustrations of caregiving don’t fester into pain and resentment.
Friend can make you laugh until your side ache and you find yourself hoping you don’t wet your pants. In short, they are often your lifeline. So please don’t let go. Socializing may need to me modified. Lunches and matinees may replace dinner and a movie. You may not be able to leave your home, so the party may have to come to you but however you arrange it, stay connected.
- Don’t Confuse Endurance with Resilience
So often we torment ourselves with the notion that as soon as you get past this latest hurtle in life, all will be easier. In reality nothing gets easier. No sooner do you exhale from meeting one demand than the next burning issue presents itself. So we hunker down and call upon our endurance to meet the next challenge.Here is where the danger lies, in a caregiver’s endless ability to endure.
You see, we mistake endurance for resilience. Endurance is a coping skill intended to be called upon when things become exceedingly challenging and stressful. Endurance is the ability to deal with unusual pain or suffering and continuing to function. Our ability to endure is intended to be maintained for only a fixed amount of time until a situation is resolved. It was never intended to be used as an everlasting source of fuel for life.
Resilience, however, is the ability to withstand the stress and challenges of life while remaining centered and fresh. Resilience is a healthy reserve of personal fuel that can be accessed to maintain a state of equilibrium, not only to rise up to overcome the crisis of the moment. Resilience is like dropping the engine of your life into second gear so you can maintain speed as you go uphill.
Developing a resilient mindset means understanding you can only thrive in a lifestyle of perpetual generosity, such as a caregiving, when you give from the excess of your energetic fuel tank and not from the fumes. It means that regardless of the demands of a situation, you are addressing that situation from a place of fullness.
The true lesson here is to embrace the fact that choosing a mindset of endurance is choosing only to survive. Choosing a temperament of resilience is embracing living life fully each day. So explore what it takes to develop a resilient nature that is ready, willing and very much able to serve, regardless of the circumstances surrounding that call to care.