Category: <span>Mental Health</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

The Tummy & Brain Connection

What is the one thing that is most annoying when it comes to thinking your stomach?

        Is it doctors saying that you are overweight? Or family members commenting on your weight which in turn makes you feel terrible about yourself? Or is it not feeling good about how you look? How does this make you feel? How does this change your appetite? What about your health overall?

It’s common to struggle throughout the years to a point in which we don’t even want to hear the word “stomach” ‘tummy’ or even look at it. Maybe this has been the case for you or perhaps not.  However, our stomach is an important part of us.

Well, what would you think if I told you that your stomach is attached to your brain and affects your mood? For some of us, it may concerning to hear that since it may impact the way we treat it.

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Treat Yourself Like a Plant: Four Steps to Well-Being

Humans don’t come with an instruction manual, but there are things that we can all do that have been proven to keep us physically and mentally healthy. 

 

I do NOT have a green thumb, but I do know the basics of how to keep a plant alive and growing. Therefore, I’d like to explain how to engage in self-care in a way that is easy to remember: treat yourself like a plant.

 

  1. Get some sunlight.

Just like plants need sunlight, so do we!  It is widely known that Vitamin D comes from milk and some foods, but did you know it also comes from sunlight?

In fact, 15 minutes of sunlight exposure at least 3 times per week can give us enough Vitamin D to make up for what is missing in food.

Vitamin D helps reduce inflammation and helps all types of cells grow!  It makes our bones stronger, lowers blood pressure, and helps us sleep better. (We all know what consequences we suffer if we don’t get a good night’s sleep—grumpiness, grogginess, overeating, bad decision making just to name a few!)

Additionally, according to researchers at BYU, the availability of sunlight has a big impact on our mood.

During seasons where we get less sunlight, humans experience more mood and emotional problems and disorders.

On the other hand, days with plenty of sunshine helped increase positive mood which means the release of “feel good” hormones and chemicals in the body. Just remember to wear your sunscreen!

 

  1. Drink plenty of water.

According to the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water.

Skin is 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery: at 31%. It only makes sense to drink water if much of our bodies, and most especially the brain, are made of water!

A 2014 study concluded that habitual water drinking facilitates clear thinking and helps with alertness. It also could benefit mood and confidence.

For example, drinking enough water can clear up skin problems, which can give self-confidence and vitality. There is such a thing as drinking too much water though, so be careful and don’t go overboard with it.

 

  1. Get some fresh air and activity.

Some plants do well indoors, and some plants thrive in the outdoor elements of wind, rain, and snow.

I’d like for you to imagine though that you are a plant that happens to benefit from the fresh air.  Imagine the slight breeze that moves you and gives you chance to interact with other plants.

Studies have shown that spending time outdoors and in nature can induce calm, decrease depression, and stave off anxiety.

There is a treatment called Ecotherapy, where you spend a prescribed amount of time outdoors and in nature to treat depression.

The benefits of being around nature and green plants is also very grounding.

Grounding is a natural way to combat anxiety because it helps us live in the moment.

Since you are out of the house, it may even give you a chance to do some light socializing–waving at neighbors, saying good morning to passersby.

This even light amount of social interaction has great benefits for the brain. It keeps loneliness at bay and can improve overall mood.

 

  1. Ensure that you are getting proper nutrients and minerals.

Have you ever seen those commercials for plant food or soil?  They show flowers that grow without the MiracleGro and some that do.

The difference is, with the plant food, the flowers grow bigger and are more resilient and the ones that grow without it are still pretty, but puny and weaker.

The same goes for our bodies!  If we ingest junk food or fast food, sure our bodies will survive.

We won’t go hungry and we will live.  But if we eat high quality, nutritious food and take our vitamins, our bodies will not just be surviving and functioning, they will THRIVE.

Also, have you ever noticed how you feel after you eat a large fatty and not-so-nutritious meal? Or what it feels like if you drink too much alcohol?

That is not fun at all. Like a plant, your brain functions best when it gets nutrient rich soil and plant food.

Eating high-quality foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from oxidative stress.

 

So, there you have it.  Four simple strategies to keep your mind and body happy and healthy…like a plant!

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