Caregivers are created to fulfill many different needs and sometimes it is for more than one person at a time. Often times they do not acknowledge they are a caregiver because of the relationship with their loved ones. The feeling of obligation before compassion is usually the first response. This obligation oftentimes hides the burden caregiving becomes which creates a domino effect of many other emotions. Regret, lack of choice, self-doubt, guilt, fear, and what I call my inner run away. So many times I found myself thinking "I don't want to do this anymore" because of the arguing and feeling incredible guilt shortly thereafter for having the thought.
Part of shouldering this burden is fighting the loss of Hope. This is why I believe moments in time happen for a reason. Although we have free will to do many things in life it is easy to become complacent or stuck in a routine that keeps us from living our intended purpose. For example, my next guest went from owning an online clothing store in the Netherlands to a caregiver life coach. If you find yourself asking "why me?" Or "why now?" as I did, then I feel that is the universe giving you a nudge to go in a different direction.
Meriam Boldewijn, a dear friend I met last year as another one of those moments intended for a reason, found herself asking those questions of Why and How. After caregiving for 20 years, for her husband battling diabetes and a brother after a stroke, the answers came in an unexpected life course correction. Her love and compassion to care for her family taught her many valuable lessons which she now shares with other caregivers through her Caregiver 2.0 6-week online course.
Meriam was born and raised in South America then later moved to the Netherlands where she has lived for 30 years. As a wife, writer, entrepreneur, and now Caregiver life coach she is proof that we are never too old to try something new. Mind you, Meriam is still quite young at 50 but she too recognizes how the trials in life drastically age us to make us feel that we are. This appetite for adventure and acceptance for change came after experiencing firsthand as a caregiver feelings of fear, self-doubt, and burnout. The fear of the unknown while caring for her husband who lives with diabetes took them both on a journey through dialysis, transplants, and many other surgeries, but also her own self-discovery.
The one thing that helped Meriam throughout all of her trials and transformation is hope. We have both learned how powerful hope can be along the caregiver's journey. When I was still working it was easy for me to add tasks to my daily To-Do list so I would not forget what needed to be done or be able to reprioritize my days ahead. I noticed when I kept working to check off the list that I lost sight of my needs. Then when I stepped in to care for Mom she also became part of my To-Do list which began to chip away at my self-confidence, self-awareness, and source of hope.
The idea of hope seems like we would have an endless supply as long as we remain positive or maintain our core values. The problem is hope is as much a part of us as is the need for breathing fresh air. Without it we can become consumed with darkness. When we begin to lose sight of our own needs then our physical body and mind suffer. Fatigue creeps in and before we know it we start trying to find ways to skimp or avoid items on our To-Do list. Then we begin to slip into conservation mode and our energy continues to deplete. Since we do not realize the source of physical decline is happening we also do not realize the negative self-talk that begins in correlation with the exhaustion. Self-doubt begins with thoughts that we tell ourselves how we cannot do this, we are not enough, or we are weak when we desperately strive to show strength.
The simplest form of strength for a caregiver is the ability to ask for help although it may not feel as simple. There is also an outward hope in humanity and community that somehow we forget all about. Learn how to delegate the To-Do list instead of falling prey to the notion of obligation and the idea that we have to do it all alone. We are not saving anyone from hurt or inconvenience when we take on the pain or burden by ourselves.
The face of caregivers is up among all racial and ethnic groups, education levels, work statutes, genders, and nearly all generations. There is a greater proportion of caregivers caring for multiple people now than in 2015 according to Caregiving in the U.S. studies. More caregivers are stepping up to provide unpaid care to family, friends, and neighbors. While many caregivers feel their role has given them a sense of purpose or meaning in life, these positive emotions often become unbalanced with feelings of stress or strain. As more caregivers report physical, emotional, and financial strain their overall health status is also reported as declining from excellent or very good to fair or poor.
Maintaining hope is a commitment between you and your creator. It requires active participation. If you find yourself in a hopeless state of mind or feeling broken-hearted, then try these 5 things to help maintain hope to shine brightly within:
1) Write for 10 minutes a day to stimulate gratitude. Writing is calming and creatively therapeutic.
2) We cannot do it all.
3) Stop thinking you're too old to do anything. It's never too late to learn a new skill or hobby.
4) Learn to identify the negative thought process to begin breaking it or redirecting those thoughts.
5) Design a self-care regimen that you can maintain daily. For example, daily meditation walks, painting, drawing.
6) Stay in touch with friends to connect, confess, create together, or just be together.
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I hope this gave you more food for thought. Until next time, BE PROACTIVE. Take care everybody.
Intro: Vacation Time by Khris Paradise
Outro: Misty by Khris Paradise