Being a caregiver is a big job for most people. It requires a lot of patience, energy and strength to help and support your loved one or someone you are caring for. It can be a job from 8 AM – 4 PM five days a week or it can be 24/7 if it’s concerning a family member. The risk of getting stressed or burnt out is high because it demands so much of us as an individual. There is nowhere to hide; they constantly rely on your help, which takes the focus away from your own needs.
I remember working as a full-time teaching assistant in Copenhagen for a few years. I really loved the job and the kids were amazing. However, it was challenging and stressful for me to be fully on with so many kids all day long. Some days I wanted to go to bed as soon as I got home. The following morning, I was still stressed out and felt exhausted. This made me realize that I was not really taking care of myself and that I didn’t prioritize my own well-being as the most important thing in my life. I gave this part to others first, which didn’t work. So, either I could quit my job and blame that for being stressed out, or take it as an invitation to get to know myself in a new and deeper way – in essence – changing my relationship with myself. I chose the latter because it felt right.
“Negative beliefs make us feel bad and are the root causes of stress.”
Self-care is one of the most challenging aspects for us as human beings, because we cannot implement real, effective self-care without facing ourselves. We would be looking ourselves straight in the mirror. Realizing the patterns and beliefs about ourselves that control us and seeing our own self-worth (or lack thereof) can be terrifying. It may be difficult in the beginning to realize how we are actually treating ourselves inside, which can cause a lot of stress being around others. Establishing a deeper and more loving relationship towards ourselves will change the way we relate to others and the whole world.
First, all real change comes from honesty. We need to be profoundly honest about the state of mind we are in, no matter what, and to accept this present state without wanting to change it. Simply seeing yourself as you are in the present moment -honestly and without judgement, i.e. “I feel like______ right now”. Reach out for help and support and share your authentic feelings and thoughts about your present state to someone you trust. Authentic sharing with others is magical.
Next step is to grow your self-awareness. Getting to know yourself better looks like this: What do I think and believe about myself? What controls my thoughts and feelings? Why do I actually do what I do? We realize that the only real “enemy” is in our thinking and the relationship with ourselves. Changing the inner dialogue (self-talk) is the next step to get to know what is not working on the inside. Negative beliefs make us feel bad and are the root causes of stress. This can get reinforced when we are around people because other people work as a mirror to ourselves. This “mirror” amplifies what we are sensing and feeling within.
“When we change our relationship with ourselves, people around us change too…Valuing yourself is like a ripple effect. It inspires people around you and they feel and sense it.”
To help us become more authentic and more aware, there are also great practices and exercises that we can do. The best practice I know is being in the moment, which is also called the Now. By meditating, doing yoga, breathing exercises or simply walking slowly in nature while being present in the now, we get to know that we are not our thoughts and feelings. When we are fully present, there are no problems. Our thinking usually consists of rumination about the past or worrying about the future! These are the thoughts and feelings that create the root causes of our stress.
Most caregivers and people in general would say that their priority in life is their partner, their pet, their children, or the one they are taking care of. For us to be thriving and successful caregivers, we need to prioritize our own well-being as number one before we can take care of others. The more you fill your own cup – the more you have to give to others. It’s not about being selfish or self-centered, but more like a goodness; an acceptance and love for yourself. Like watering your own flower or tree for everyone to enjoy. Enjoy more of you!
When we change our relationship with ourselves, people around us change too. When we are nurturing and really taking care of ourselves, it gets conveyed to others. Valuing yourself is like a ripple effect. It inspires people around you and they feel and sense it.
Real change starts within. And fortunately, the level of stress we are experiencing is actually helping us realize something needs to change within; to something more loving and caring.