Rely on your sense of humor. Somehow laughter can warm the bleakest of situations. Whenever possible, look for the humorous side of the situation. Rent some funny videos, talk over funny memories. A good chuckle will make a real difference.
Appreciate the benefits of leisure time. Savoring leisure is not selfish – it is life-affirming. How did you spend your leisure time before you became a caregiver? Can you adapt some of your former activities to include your loved one? Time constraints, other obligations and guilt may make leisure time difficult to find, so be creative.
Find a support group. You may be struggling with so many confusing feelings: fear, frustration, anger, isolation, resentment, sadness, grief and so on. A support group can provide you with an appropriate place to work through those feelings. People who have similar situations can be an incredible source of support for one another simply because they understand. Shared tears and laughter help make burdens lighter.
Seek professional help. If you have tried many of these suggestions to little or no avail, consider working with a therapist who specializes in stress reduction families with chronic illness. A counselor may be able to help you vent your feelings in a safe, non-judgmental environment. He or she may also be able to increase your awareness of unrealistic expectations and teach you new coping strategies.
Appreciate your own efforts. The best caregiving in the world will not change the outcome of many illnesses. Frustration about your powerlessness in these situations can contribute to feelings of burnout. Rather than belaboring yourself for your inability to cure what is incurable, draw strength and comfort from what you can do. You can provide dignity, care and love. You cannot control the outcome; that rests in God’s hands.
Seek spiritual renewal. Many people find the deepest solace in their faith; this may be your source of help also. Religious services, conversations with clergy, individual worship and prayer – all may help to alleviate your stress and give you greater perspective, real strength and inspiration.
It’s All Right To:
- Be angry. Turn this energy into positive action. Clean closets, take a walk, talk to someone.
- Be frustrated. Stop the present activity, take a deep breath and begin a different activity.
- Need time alone. A favorite chair in a private room, a trip to the store with friends.
- Need and ask for help. Explore family, friends, local agencies for services needed. Most doctors’ offices and clergy can make referrals.
- Trust your judgment. Relax, you are doing the best you can.
- Recognize your limits. You are a valuable person; take care of yourself too.
- Make mistakes. So who’s perfect? This is how we learn.
- Grieve. This is a normal response to loss. You may be sad over the loss of the way things were.
- Laugh and love. It can seem out of place, but your capacity to feel is not gone and can occur unexpectedly.
- Hope. Tomorrow, the day may go smoother – a friend may call, a cure may be found!
A “different” idea. Consider thinking of your caregiving as a volunteer job. In this way you may feel more in control, creating the rules of your involvement and defining what constitutes success (which may be be nothing more than continuing to give care). You may wish to think of yourself as a manager of several persons who provide the total care, thus finding the delegating of certain responsibilities to others as acceptable and freeing. This new attitude can help you be open to other caregiver opportunities. Recognizing that there may be several ways to get things done, you can seek out support services. You can understand the value of peer groups, adult daycare and respite programs. Instead of viewing the use of these services as an admission of weakness or failure, you can call on the help that is available in your community so that you can continue in your caregiving role without experiencing burnout.