Caring for others at its best!
During some point in our lives you may have offered a helping hand to a friend who needs to speak with you about their relationship problems, a family member that is experiencing mental health difficulties, someone with a physical injury, disability or illness. If you have been crowned as the caring person within your social circle, you could be described as a '24 hour carer'.
Being a caregiver may provide you with a sense of satisfaction and add meaning to your life. It can be rewarding taking care of those you love dearly and in return, you may also feel valued or loved by those you are caring for, arriving at the conclusion that its part of your make up, it's what you do best. Although caring for others is highly valued and can create emotional resonance, a continuous commitment to others could be compromising your emotional, psychological and physical needs, putting your own health at risk.
I am also familiar with this script, it is what initially inspired me to become a counsellor many years ago. Enjoying the role of taking care of others increased my eagerness to learn new ways and skills to give to others, but before I could proceed to professional development, I had to face the biggest challenge of my life - learning to explore and take care of my own needs, heal my own wounds (so to speak) without this valuable process taking place. I would not be deemed fit to work on a professional (nor a personal) level. As we can only give to others if we are in a position to do so.
Perhaps, at the initial thought, nurturing ourselves may be a difficult concept to grasp. Especially if we have remained in this role for far too long. We may have learnt this behaviour through parental, cultural or societal beliefs. That caring for others is a signature strength, but through this continuous process the importance of 'self' diminishes. Constantly helping others may also distract us from focusing on our own problems and can detract from our own happiness. Learning to put yourself first might also bring up some level of discomfort, leading to the thought that you are being 'selfish'. I would like to rephrase this word as 'selfull'. Caring for others requires knowledge about caring for ourselves, if we do not know our limitations, needs or value, it can bring pain and suffering to something you love doing.
If you are experiencing any of the below as a caregiver...
- lacking energy
- fatigue or tired
- unable to cope
- anxious or constantly worrying
- experiencing physical pains
It may be time for some "self care"
- Talk to someone you trust about how you are feelin.
- Join a stress management programme or support group.
- Learn to take time out to recharge your batteries.
- Try asking for help, to support your needs or to delegate the care.
- Explore new ways to relax each day.
- Let go of any quilt you may be carrying.
- Speak with your GP about any health concerns.
- And, most importantly, give yourself permission to experience the above.
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