Author: <span>Jazmine Silva, MS, LPC, RPT</span>

When the Caregiver Needs Inner-Care

Dear Reader,

 As a provider, I have come to understand the importance of providing care to others.  In many walks of life, we all engage in providing care in one form or another.

Caregiving is a benevolent and altruistic practice.  Caregiving can range from providing care to children and adults, helping meet the needs of others, or providing support.

Caregiving has many forms, variations, and levels of depth.  Some individuals require more support and others need less.  Every individual and situation is unique to its circumstances and necessities.  In some cases, there are seasons where individuals may need more or less from us.

Normally, when inquiring about why caregivers engage in such practice, it derives from values such as kindness, a deep sense of contribution, and a desire to help others.

However, what happens when the role of caregiving becomes all-consuming or encompassing?

In some cases, the caregiver may over-function, overwork, over give, and hurt. 

Dr. Gabor Maté eloquently points out in a lecture how caregivers are honored in obituaries for selflessness, always being there for others and putting themselves last, and working until the last minute of their death.  In his lecture, he cautions the audience of how these individuals needed to receive care when receiving fatal diagnosis and continued to perform in caregiving roles at the expense of their health, and prioritizing others when they themselves needed support.

This is a grim and sobering observation of the caregiving spectrum.   On one end, it can have a positive and adaptive function, and on the other it can lead to maladaptive and negative consequences.

It reveals the cost and impacts caregiving may lead to when over-functioning, over giving, and not taking the time necessary to rest or recover.  Dr. Maté’s message emphasizes the importance of caregiving for the self.

Now, if you are in a role where you are providing care to another individual, the following items are signs that you might need to prioritize your own self-care:

  1. Resentment

If you find yourself resenting others who are receiving of your care, this might be a sign that you are likely over giving or over functioning.  Resentment is an important emotion that signals the body that we need something.  In some cases, both the mind and body may need physical or emotional nourishment, care, and rest.

One way to address resentment is by recognizing and understanding that we are emotional human beings who have needs.  Of course, this begins with self-awareness and listening to ourselves.  Our body, mind, and heart are talking to us all the time. Once a need is acknowledged, boundaries can be established, and needs can be expressed.

  1. Sickness and Illness

This occurs when a primary doctor or provider has pointed out the importance of taking time off, self-care, or reducing stress.  This might mean that the body needs time to recover or rest.  There is a strong correlation between inflammation, stress, and chronic illness.  In some cases, stress can exacerbate the symptoms of sickness or illness.

A way to address this is by asking for help.  Like mentioned above, it starts with recognizing what we need.  When this occurs, we might recognize that we need help and that’s okay: we are human.  This may mean that some tasks or projects need to be delegated appropriately, revised, or entirely removed.

  1. Misplaced Responsibility

This normally occurs when we feel a deep sense of responsibility for others.  Granted, there are real and valid situations where we do hold a responsibility for others’ wellbeing such as parenting or leadership roles.  However, misplaced responsibility occurs when we feel responsible for things that are truly outside of our control.  This can lead us to feeling exhausted, discouraged, and hurt.

One way to address this is by accepting both what is within and outside of our control.  Acceptance is an antidote to those things which are not within our control.  This does not mean we are giving up; however, it may mean that we can redirect our efforts in a more adaptive or helpful ways.

  1. Insatiable Expectations

No matter what we do, it feels as if it’s not enough.  As human beings we have a potential to do extraordinary things; however, if unaware it can lead individuals to over perform or overwork.  Like mentioned before, this may be due to misplaced responsibility on ourselves such as things are truly outside of our control.  This can lead us to limiting our ability to be present and enjoy the process.

A way to address this by setting realistic and achievable expectations.  To do so, we may start by prioritizing and clarifying what is truly important for us.  Ideally, the goal would be to shift our expectations from focusing on the outcomes and instead focusing on the quality of the process.  In other words, enjoying the journey.

  1. Over-Identifying with the Caregiving Role

This can occur when we confuse our identity with the caregiver role.  The self is made up from different parts, values, and life experiences.  However, in some cases either because of adverse childhood experiences or through social learning experiences we might forget who we are.  Hence, we might confuse the caregiving role as a form of identity.  Very reasonably, it might be a very important part of who we are, however, the invitation is to take into consideration that even then, it’s not all of who we are.

A way to reframe this, is to make room for other parts.  This requires awareness of ourselves: to make room for both the caregiving part of ourselves and other parts.  Hence, this may begin by exploring all our parts such as our strengths, our roots, our values, and needs.   There is more to us than the caregiving role.

In closing, caregiving is a beautiful and rewarding experience.  However, the caregiver needs love, too.  My intent is to invite the caregiver part in you to make room for inner care.  Like Maya Angelou once said, “Love liberates,” it does not confine.  Caregiving is an act of love that liberates the self to express and receive love.  In essence, my hope for you is to live the life your heart longs for.

With warmth and kindness,

Jazmine

References

A., V. D. (2015). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. New York (New York): Penguin Books.

Martinez, M. E. (2016). The mindbody code: how to change the beliefs that limit your health, longevity, and success. Sounds True.

SCSASmithers. (2013, March 6). When the body says no — caring for ourselves while caring for others. dr. Gabor Maté. YouTube. Retrieved August 11, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6IL8WVyMMs&t=2309s

After Experiencing Relationship Hurt: 5 Healing Practices

Dear Reader,

 

When we are growing up, our primary caregivers are like mirrors.  They mirror back to us how they see the world, how they see others, and see us. Their way of relating and engaging with us and others impacts how we may see the world, others, and ourselves.

When reflecting on our own childhood experiences, we need to consider our primary caregiver’s mirrors.  They hold the reflections of their own caregiver’s mirrors which provide us with glimpses of transgenerational patterns and themes that may be passed down from one generation to another.  Hence, our world-views, the way we interpret the world, hold the mirrors of our caregivers, our culture, our ancestors, and own life experiences.

Over time, we internalize at a subconscious and conscious level our identity, our beliefs, and parts of ourselves.  Early life experiences highly influence the messages we learn about ourselves and how the world works.  This basically sets our subconscious programming.  

Is the world safe? Can I trust others? Am I worthy?  Am I capable? Am I enough? 

To further analyze what may influence these beliefs, we can explore the relational and emotional injuries that can occur in families and at a cultural level.

According to Dr. Mario Martinez, there are three common relational wounds we experience as human beings: shame, abandonment, and betrayal.

In his research and work, he also outlines the antidotes to those emotional injuries such as honor for shame, commitment for abandonment, and loyalty for betrayal.

Dr. Martinez encourages readers to seek evidence of individuals in our lives who have shown honor, commitment, and loyalty to help reframe our worldview.  Now, his message is one of empowerment where, if we can identify the origin of the wounding, we can then help it heal.

Now the words relational, emotional injury and wounding are used to reflect what we experience when being shamed, betrayed or abandoned, not as actual physical injuries, but to reflect the depth and complexity of the pain.

Below, I want to outline five practices to begin or compliment the healing journey after experiencing relational hurt.

An important ethical disclaimer:  This list does not in any way shape or form endorse staying in abusive relationships.  If there is any form of abuse in the relationship, sexual, emotional, physical or forms of neglect, it must be addressed with professional help.  I will outline our community resources available in the *References section and available hotlines as well.  This list is not exhaustive and is not meant to replace any form of therapy. If you believe you or someone you know would benefit from counseling you may call our office for more information.

So, what can we do if we have experienced any form of emotional wounds?

1. We need to take care of our body first. When we have experienced any type of emotional pain, our body registers the pain.  In fact, the brain cannot tell the difference between physical and emotional pain.  Pain is pain for the brain.  Hence, taking care of our sleep, nutrition, rest, and safety are incredibly important in allowing both our body and brain to recover and heal.  We want to take care of our body with more self-care than usual. This helps increase the level of safety and reduce levels of stress.

2. We need to reflect on the stories we are telling ourselves. Our brain thrives and yearns for purpose and meaning.  When we have incomplete fragments of what happened to us, it feels uncertain and our thoughts may loop, feel stuck, or feel intrusive in efforts to make sense of things.  Granted, there are things in life that are so painful that those experiences may not have any meaning because nothing will make sense of it.  If something truly doesn’t have meaning, then that’s completely fair and okay.  Helpful practices in processing meaning are practices such as journaling, contemplating, prayer, or meditation.  These introspective practices help increase our awareness while making meaning of our own story.

3. We need to surround ourselves around safe, supporting and encouraging individuals. When we experience a relational injury, it’s as if that’s all we see.  It’s the way we feel seen and known.  In fact, it limits and narrows our perspective to any other possible positive views of ourselves.  When we nourish our mind and heart with people who believe in the best of us and want the best of us, we make room for another internal dialogue and perspective that can truly feel liberating and healing.  This may mean spending more time with a supportive friend or family member who participates in active listening, expresses compassion and provides encouragement.

4. We need to reflect on what we’ve learned from the experience. In many cases, this is where reading books, listening to podcasts, and talking to others may be helpful in better understanding situations and dynamics; although the most important learning is the one that we derive from the experience.  Learning from external sources such as books and other resources can help us name what happened.  Like Dr. Daniel Siegel says, “When we can name it, we can tame it.”  Naming things has an empowering impact since it allows us to reclaim our reality, knowing that what we went through has a name.

5. In some cases, we need professional support. If that means a therapist, counselor, psychiatrist, social worker, doctor, or any individual in a professional capacity who can help us or guide us, it’s highly encouraged.  We were never meant to do life alone.  In some cases, it’s liberating to admit, “I need help.”  Mental health professionals are there to help us understand ourselves, our emotions, beliefs, boundaries, and needs.  More importantly, counseling is a process where small changes have a compound effect on our desired goals.  In the beginning change feels small and unnoticeable, but, over time, we can see how much we have evolved, healed, and grown.

In closing, there may be experiences we may be holding on to that might be impacting our present.  If there are, know that for every injury there is an antidote and a way to reclaim our life and mental and emotional energy.  My hope for you is to live the life your heart longs for.

With warmth and kindness,

Jazmine

References

National Domestic Violence Hotline: Dial 1-800-799-7233  or Text: “START” to 88788

Community Centers in El Paso, Texas 

Center Against Sexual & Family Violence: Dial 800-727-0511

La Posada Home: Dial  915-544-4595

A., V. D. (2015). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. New York (New York): Penguin Books.

Martinez, M. E. (2016). The mindbody code: how to change the beliefs that limit your health, longevity, and success. Sounds True.

Wolynn, M. (2017). It didn’t start with you how inherited family trauma shapes who we are and how to end the cycle. Penguin Books.

Why Emotional Needs Matter

Dear Reader,

 

“A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”

-Brene Brown

As a former teacher, I have seen how important, in our culture, is to think our way through things with a heavy emphasis on thoughts and changing mindset.  There is no doubt that our mind is incredible and capable of amazing things.

Meta-cognition (thinking about our thinking) was very important in helping students develop critical thinking skills.  In essence, it helps us formulate decisions, problem solving, planning, and organizing.

Now, as a mental health counselor, I understand how important and essential emotional needs are.  So, let’s begin with one important question:

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What if Questions Were the Answer?

 

Dear Reader,

 

As a counselor and a teacher, I know the value and importance of asking the right type of questions.  In essence, being intentional has value.  The questions we ask ourselves, often, guide our focus, critical thinking and problem solving.

 

I have learned that during difficult times, we have an inclination to shift to survival mode, which is typically appropriate and adaptive depending on circumstances and even past experiences.  This survival lens may influence our perspective and mindset.

 

It is important to keep in mind that if we have experienced any form of trauma, then there are additional layers that need to be considered besides shifting our mindset.  In fact, some of those layers include feeling safe, type of support system, and resources, among many more.

 

My intention is to invite a possible way of reframing some of our internal dialogue in spite of adversity.  The purpose of this is to help us change our perspective and view things in a way that may be more helpful than unhelpful.

 

5 Things to Consider when Navigating Uncertainty in Relationships

Dear Reader,

Naturally, life and human behavior can be both predictable and unpredictable.  In relationships uncertainty is closely tied to vulnerability“What ifs and How comes?” are questions that surface and recycle themselves both in our minds and in our hearts.

 

Therefore, to define uncertainty I like to reference Brené Brown’s research on vulnerability:

“I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. With that definition in mind, let’s think about love. Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow—that’s vulnerability.”

Simply put, uncertainty is a form of vulnerability and courage.  We do, hope and love in spite of our fears.  The challenge with uncertainty is that there are no promises, no guarantees or assurances.  It can truly trigger fear in us which can lead to a fight or flight response.  We can feel both activated and powerless at the same time.

That is not to say that we don’t like uncertainty.  To some degree it actually brings variety and spontaneity to life which can be delightful and fun.  But, in some cases, too much uncertainty can leave us feeling insecure and doubtful.

Therefore, let’s consider the following 5 things when navigating uncertainty in relationships:

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Wired to connect. Wired to grow.

Dear reader, 

Are relationships feeling complicated?

As much as connecting is important and valuable, it can be a great source of conflict.  Sometimes, it’s assumed that being in a relationship should be natural, effortless or easy.  However, relationships require attention, effort, and development.  There are essentials ingredients to helping them work.

What research has shown is that we are wired to connect, both at a biological and intuitive level.  We need connection to survive and thrive.  But, what do we do when it’s just too complicated to get along?

There are ways to improve the quality of relationships.  The first step is to reflect on the quality of our current relationships.  Dr. Amy Banks, explains that a way to assess relationships is to rate and reflect on 4 ingredients such as: safety, acceptance, mirroring, and energy.

We are capable of improving the quality of relationships within what’s under our control.  There are variables that are simply not a reflection of us, but the other individual’s past and present circumstances.  With that said, that helps us know our own boundaries and how far we can develop a relationship without sacrificing our needs and dignity.

Read More

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