Caregiver stress is a major theme that is coming front and center in both my professional and personal life recently. It has been apparent for awhile but now it really seems to be ramped up… and maybe that is because other stress in the world is intensifying what is already a stress laden role. We all need to integrate self care into our lives but when involved in a care giving position it becomes crucial to the quality of our lives and care.
Caregiver stress exists in all forms of caregiving
Caring for others, be it an elderly parent, a relative, a child, or a friend, is one of the highest forms of human service. However, altruism aside, caring for others often means that you put their needs before your own. You set aside your desires and wishes for another day, a day when you’ll have the luxury of time to spend by yourself and on yourself. It is a day you dream about and yearn for.
In the meantime, you give and give and give. You begin to wear down and out. Energy and enthusiasm wanes as you become physically exhausted and emotionally drained. It may seem that the more you give, the more that is requested or required of you. It becomes harder to keep up and maintain your pace. Your nerves wear thin. You begin to do less and less for yourself. Periodically you wonder, “Where is there care for me?” You may begin to ask: “What’s happened to me, to my life?” Worse yet, you may feel guilty for having those thoughts!
Caregiver stress makes self care essential
A continuous outflow of energy through giving without refueling or replenishing yourself cannot possibly end up anywhere but in fatigue and burnout. It is then that resentment can set in not to mention damage to your own health. You must stop and refuel in order to keep going.
Each of us can only give away what we have. Humans are adaptable and it may seem that we can give from nothing, or run along on empty for quite a time, but the truth is that the bill for such behavior will eventually come due. It may seem ironic that as a caregiver you need to put yourself first. However, it is truly the only way to assure a reserve of energy to care for others without creating problems for you! Regular self care and self nurture is essential to create the inner resources that allow for a constant and even flow of energy for both you and the ones you love.
The photograph ( by Rita Loyd www.NurturingArt.com) above depicts the energy of love but also spiritual and grounding energy flowing through the primary caregiver that nourishes and strengthens her and then flows through the one being cared for. This is truly the way that we all should be “hooked up”–if we focus on energizing and balancing ourselves, there is an easier flow toward others without all the stress and striving.