Seniors

Caregiving and Mindfulness

 

Over the past 8 years of caring full-time for my husband, I have discovered the necessity and obligation of self-compassion. It is only in the last several years, self-compassion has become my daily passion and practice. I take time to myself; to care, love, and have great patience for myself. The beginning was of my journey to self-compassion was challenging, slow to progress, and now is vibrantly messy!

My first step was learning to take the same care, patience, and love I was giving to my husband, and apply it to myself, just as generously. I had to learn that I am not my thoughts, insecurities, or feelings of worthlessness. In fact, I was the only one hearing these thoughts, and more unfortunately—believing them.

Guilt, for us caregivers, stems from feelings of not doing enough, being enough, trying to please everyone (and failing miserably). Our guilt is further fueled by not behaving in the “right” way, whether or not your perceptions are accurate. caregivers often burden themselves with a long list of self-imposed “oughts,” “shoulds,” and “musts.” For example: “I must avoid putting Mom in a nursing home.” “I ought to visit every day.” “I shouldn’t lose my temper with my Loved One who has dementia.” Finally, self-imposed guilt, for many caregivers happens by beating ourselves up over faults that are imagined, unavoidable — or simply being human.

So, how do we learn to cope? We become our own best advocate, friend, and self-caregiver. Caregivers need to have self-empathy and self-compassion. I know, easier said than done. As a society we typically frown upon putting oneself first; however, how can you fill someone else’s cup when your own vessel is empty?When guilt nags, ask yourself: What’s triggering the guilt? Could it be an unrealistic belief about your abilities? Caregivers intentions are good, but our time, resources, and skills are limited. We need to accept our limitations, the situation, and explore our feelings in these instances. We need to seek help in the form of family members, friends, neighbors, support groups, and/ or agencies.

We take care of ourselves, by establishing routines- simple, easy, and planned routines for us. A simple bedtime routine can mean better sleep, and a morning routine can set a positive tone to the entire day. Journaling is a instant release of pent of emotions, exercise or a quick walk can reinvigorate, and a daily devotion to a spiritual practice can ease stress. Simply stated, “Take care of you!”

My favorite author, Brene Brown, has this to say on the subject of self-compassion:

Self-compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind.

Self-kindness: Being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.

Common humanity: Common humanity recognizes that suffering and feelings of personal inadequacy are part of the shared human experience—something we all go through rather than something that happens to “me” alone.

Mindfulness: Taking a balanced approach to negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated. We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time. Mindfulness requires that we not “overidentify” with thoughts and feelings, so that we are caught up and swept away by negativity.” ― Brené Brown, “Daring Greatly”

Always remember each day, hour, moment you can renew — try again!

About the author

Danielle McCarthy