We have seen the studies. We have experienced a decline in our own health all the while ignoring our own health needs. We know that we need to take care of ourselves so that we can take care of our loved ones. We know that caregivers can often wind up in worse physical shape than those they are caring for. Still, we do nothing for ourselves. Why?
September 7, 2022
We are stubborn people. We all believe that we can handle “this.” We must handle “this.” You may even hear and believe that “God doesn’t give you more than you can bear.” That is not a true statement. Go read it. 1 Cor. 10:13. God will not let you be tempted more than you can bear. He will provide a way of escape. God will give you the grace you need in every situation. His power helps us use the resources that we have and can get to handle whatever is in front of us.
Do we think that we have to suffer or put our own lives on hold to help or care for someone we love? You see, that is more of the “either/or” thinking and not the “both/and.” Get out of the “either/or” thinking mindset. Get into the “both/and” types of thinking. If you have only thought of the “either/or” possibilities, then you can learn to think of a “both/and” possibility. More on this later.
What attitudes and beliefs do you have that stand in your way?
- Do you think you are being selfish if you put your needs first?
- Is it frightening to think of your own needs? What is the fear about?
- Do you have trouble asking for what you need? Do you feel inadequate if you ask for help?
- Do you feel you have to prove that you are worthy of the care recipient’s affection? Do you do too much as a result?
Really think about the above questions. It may be time to take 30 minutes to think and talk to yourself. Writing it out helps you to get to the real issues/answers.
Here are some ways that your own mind will kick your ass.
- I am responsible for my parent’s health.
- If I don’t do it, no one will.
- If I do it right, I will get the love, attention, and respect I deserve.
- Our family always takes care of their own.
- I promised my father I would always take care of my mother.
Your own negative self-talk will get you into trouble. Just because you think it, does not make it true or right. Circumstances may have changed and you can no longer keep your promises. Don’t hold yourself to impossible standards made in the heat of concern/passion.
Our behavior is based on our own thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and misconceptions. Remember, your feelings can and will lie to you. You may believe something that is simply not true. Half-truths are what make up great lies. You do get to choose what you will or will not do. You do not get to choose what you can and cannot control. That is not the way life works. Yes, it sometimes is awful, frustrating, and maddening. What can you truly control? Your attitude. Your own actions. Your self-talk. Your gratitude. Your own mental and physical fitness. Your eating habits. Your sleep. Your boundaries. What you prioritize?
Things you do not have control over:
- You can’t control other people (what they do or what they say).
- You can’t control how other people see you.
- You can’t control what happens to other people.
- You can’t control your thoughts or feelings, they just are. You don’t have to act on them, though.
- You can’t control the outcome.
- You can’t control other people’s happiness.
- You can’t control the past.
- You can’t control the future.
- You can’t control that change is inevitable.
Stop wasting your energy and time on things you cannot control. Focus on what you can control and actually make a difference.
Will you reduce your personal stress?
The problem isn’t always the problem. The problem is how we perceive the problem. The meanings we attach to the problem.
The following information is from Family Caregiver Alliance
Your level of stress is influenced by many factors, including the following:
- Whether your caregiving is voluntary. If you feel you had no choice in taking on the responsibilities, the chances are greater that you will experience strain, distress, and resentment.
- Your relationship with the care recipient. Sometimes people care for another with the hope of healing a relationship. If healing does not occur, you may feel regret and discouragement.
- Your coping abilities. How you coped with stress in the past predicts how you will cope now. Identify your current coping strengths so that you can build on them.
- Your caregiving situation. Some caregiving situations are more stressful than others. For example, caring for a person with dementia is often more stressful than caring for someone with a physical limitation.
- Whether or not support is available.
Steps to Managing Stress
- Recognize warning signs early. These might include irritability, sleep problems, and forgetfulness. Know your own warning signs, and act to make changes. Don’t wait until you are overwhelmed.
- Identify sources of stress. Ask yourself, “What is causing stress for me?” Sources of stress might be that you have too much to do, family disagreements, feelings of inadequacy, or the inability to say no.
- Identify what you can and cannot change. Remember, we can only change ourselves; we cannot change another person. When you try to change things over which you have no control, you will only increase your sense of frustration. Ask yourself, “What do I have some control over? What can I change?” Even a small change can make a big difference. The challenge we face as caregivers is well expressed in the following words modified from the original Serenity Prayer (attributed to American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr):
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and (the) wisdom to know the difference.”
- Take action. Taking some action to reduce stress gives us back a sense of control. Stress reducers can be simple activities like walking and other forms of exercise, gardening, meditation, or having coffee with a friend. Identify some stress reducers that work for you.
Pretty good information, huh?
Have you considered the real reasons that you do not take appropriate care of yourself?
- You haven’t made your health a priority.
- You don’t feel you have enough time to do all you “need” to do.
- You feel guilty taking some time away from your loved one.
- You don’t have the energy.
- You have reached the burnout stage.
- You won’t accept things as they are, right now.
- You won’t put yourself in the mix of things to handle.
10 Health Problems Caused by Chronic Stress
- Weakening of the immune system, which increases vulnerability to colds and other infections
- Mental health disorders (e.g., anxiety, panic attacks, depression, mood swings)
- Cardiovascular problems (e.g., high blood pressure, elevated heart rate, high cholesterol levels, increased risk of heart attack and stroke)
- Metabolic disorders (e.g., metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity)
- Gastrointestinal issues (e.g., ulcers, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, chronic bowel disorders)
- Muscle tension and pain (e.g., backaches, neck pain, jaw pain, tension headaches, migraines)
- Sleep problems (e.g., insomnia, stress dreams, sleep deprivation)
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Respiratory problems (e.g., shortness of breath, rapid breathing, exacerbation of existing lung diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Worsening of skin conditions (e.g., eczema, psoriasis, acne, rosacea, hives)
Which of these have you noticed in your own life? As you can see, you have to decide if your health is worth taking care of so that you feel better and are able to be the caregiver your loved one needs. Prevention is much easier than fixing a problem after it has happened. You do deserve to be happy and healthy. You do deserve to provide better care and get your life back. My services can help you achieve your goals.