Guidance For CareGivers
When the day-to-day existence of being a CareGiver has worn you out, when you feel like you cannot do it another day, CHILL OUT.
On a practical level, you need to find a way to make the time to ‘chill out’. When it may seem like your world is closing in on you, as if nothing is going right, and as if you can’t do another task, these are all signs it is time to give yourself a break.
Even if your break is only 5 minutes long, find a way to take it – no matter what. Right now!
There is a path of ‘preventive maintenance’ to make sure you don’t reach your limits of what you can deal with as a CareGiver. You can remember the path using the acronym “C-H-I-L-L O-U-T”. It stands for:
These are the attitudes or virtues you need to develop as a CareGiver. Putting these skills into practice each day will keep you from burn out.
Compassion starts with being compassionate towards yourself. In Zen Buddhism, this attitude of being friendly toward oneself is known as maitri.
As a CareGiver we often neglect our needs as we strain to care for another. It is important for the CareGiver to practice the attitude of maitri.
You then expand this attitude of friendliness toward others around you. You can draw comfort in the realization that other CareGivers experience the same exhaustion and frustration inherent in being a CareGiver as you do. Compassion gives you the ability to open your heart wider to others, and in particular, to the person you are caring for.
Eventually your compassion expands so that it includes all living things. The attitude of compassion gives you the capacity to experience your connection with all living creatures.
Healing is something we usually associate with medical professionals. We often are oblivious to the power of healing we already have within us. For example, studies show the power of touch in healing. Never underestimate the power of a kind word, thought or touch.
A frustration of being a CareGiver comes from the feeling that there is nothing you can do to help the person you are caring for. But there is – you can always extend a healing word or touch.
Intention is about living your life with purpose. If you are in touch with why you are doing something as you are doing, it will help to motivate you to continue to want to do what you are doing. It is easy to get caught up in a routine and feel it doesn’t make a difference. If you perform an act with the intention that it will benefit another, it will.
Listening is a key virtue in CareGiving. You have to learn to listen not only to what is being said but what is not being said. A simple example is you don’t have to wait for the person you are caring for to ask for something to drink. If you start to hear a raspy voice, it may be because the person is thirsty.
Love is an attitude of wishing good for another whether or not you think they deserve it. You might be annoyed by the way the person you are caring for responds to you. As, Mother Teresa would put it, “Love them anyway.”
Organizing your activity can reduce the stress of CareGiving. Some of the stress of CareGiving comes from having to react to crisis after crisis. You are in react mode most of the time . Having a plan, organizing your activities, can help you move out react mode into act mode. In act mode, you are anticipating what is needed before it is needed.
Understanding encourages you to look for what is right about a situation rather than what’s missing or wrong. It’s putting yourself in the ‘shoes of another’ and seeing the situation from their point of view.
Tenderness toward those around you can short-circuit angry or frustrating situations. It is difficult for someone to remain angry if there is no one in opposition. As the song goes, “try a little tenderness.”
By practicing these virtues and cultivating these attitudes each day, you can prevent yourself from reaching a point of burn out, of feeling unrestrained anger, of feeling useless. The next time you feel CareGiving is wearing you down, remember to CHILL OUT.