Caregiving is one of the most stressful and under/unpaid jobs in the world. Most caregivers wear several different hats and work additional jobs to provide for their loved ones. While the work of daily caregiving can test our patience, caregiving during a national pandemic comes with a whole new set of challenges and worries. It can be especially helpful for caregivers to adopt a mindset of self-compassion to ensure that they and their loved ones remain happy and healthy during this period of uncertainty, isolation, and distress.
There are many articles and blogs on the Internet right now about the importance of activities to support self-care during this unprecedented time. It is absolutely important to limit our news intake, get outside for walks and/or exercise indoors, drink plenty of water, and get quality sleep. It’s also vital to the health and wellbeing of the person being cared for that caregivers take care of their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. While it is beneficial for caregivers to identify and implement strategies for self-care, the focus of this post is the concept of self-compassion and how it relates to the wellbeing of caregivers.
Dr. Kristen Neff is a pioneer in the field of self-compassion research and her website is a great resource for any individual who would like to expand their understanding and practice. Dr. Neff discusses having compassion for oneself in the same way in which we have compassion for others during trying times. It can be helpful to think of our own situation as if it were happening to a friend. What might we say to a friend going through a similar experience and how can we tap into ourselves for self-sustaining support? We must first notice that we are suffering and then feel moved enough to respond to that pain in a way that feels warm and nurturing. Feeling compassion for ourselves, as opposed to pity, creates space for deep understanding and grace. Caregivers often put pressure on themselves to go above and beyond in caring for their loved one(s), frequently leading to physical and emotional burnout and/or fatigue. It is vital that caregivers are kind and forgiving to themselves during their daily lives and it is especially important that we keep these principles in mind during this unusual time of quarantine.
Caregiving can be a very lonely and isolating job, especially without the option of socializing in-person with others, temporary closures of Adult Day Services, and postponed in-person support groups due to guidelines around social distancing. Caregivers may feel pressure to create a stimulating environment for their loved ones at home that includes activities and a structured routine. Routines and stimulating activities can be very beneficial for individuals with cognitive impairment, however during this ongoing quarantine, it can be helpful to focus on first, ensuring that our loved ones are safe and healthy and second, ensuring that we are not judging or criticizing ourselves when our plan for the day does not go as expected. When we have compassion for ourselves, we can release some of our self-imposed pressure and find a greater sense of peace in the caregiver role.
Are you or someone you know a caregiver who is struggling with self-compassion and/or caregiver burnout? Please feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or (312) 940-3655 to explore options for support. For the time being, therapy services are being held via video conferencing or telephone.