If you read the first two parts of this series, you’re starting to see the pattern here, I’m sure….
There is always a hidden – yet very helpful once uncovered – set of beliefs, assumptions and/or automatic reactions driving our decisions and behavior. Once we find out what those are, we can immediately stop letting them run the show, and start to shift what have been historically stressful circumstances into more manageable, even comfortable ones.
So you now know to look more closely at your view of your parents (Part 1), and your concerns about their view of you (Part 2), to find opportunities to lighten things up in your care giving role. Now I invite you to consider that you might be forgetting to do that one very important thing we all MUST remember if we expect to be able to provide care without ending up collapsing and needing care ourselves.
To explain it I like to invoke this familiar phrase that makes the point crystal clear:
“Put your own oxygen mask on first!”
Remember this rule from every airline flight you’ve ever been on? Well, just like someone traveling by air with a child, you have people for whom you are responsible. People you will not be able to take care of if you are not breathing!
…Of course that’s a bit of an exaggeration for effect – the risk here is not really that you’ll stop breathing from lack of oxygen, but that your physical and emotional resources may become so depleted that you won’t be able to respond effectively.
You can easily get caught in a cycle of increasing stress and decreasing ability to deal with that stress, resulting in upsets, illness, and – worst case scenario – the potential for being unable to care for your parents at all.
Think about it for a moment. If you are not taking care of yourself, then who will be around to care for your parents, or anyone else in your life? Therefore, as hard as it may be to fathom, YOU have to be first on your priority list. You need to ask yourself when a new demanding situation arises: What decision with regard to your parents’ needs will be for your greater good?
Caregivers who collapse from exhaustion or stress always say, “I’ll be fine, really!” …right before they become incapacitated with a serious health issue. And if it’s not your physical health that suffers, it can be equally debilitating but more subtle emotional strain that can knock you out of the game. So don’t push yourself – it’s not worth it!
Whether you decide to help out, run an errand, take a day off from work, rearrange your schedule to accommodate your parents’ (or spouse’s, or boss’, or children’s…) requests or demands, make sure you have considered your needs with the love, respect and compassion that you deserve!
If it’s even a little too much for you right then, enlist the help of other resources, say “No” if it’s something that can wait, or even find them an agency they can call… whatever it takes, make sure you safeguard your own wellbeing.
Please, starting now, internalize the belief that it really is not okay to continually undermine and sabotage your own needs, wants and time in the service of others. When you’re tempted to go beyond what you can comfortably do, just remember: you get no extra points for being a martyr!
NOTE: Next time you’re tempted to give in to one request too many, or you’re in the middle of an obligation you feel is too much for you – Stop! Breathe! and email me at Loren@BeingWellWithin.com to schedule a complimentary caregiver consultation. You are not alone, and I’m here to help you make these self-care concepts the foundation of all that you do. You deserve it!