March was a month of the unknown. With the global COVID-19 outbreak reaching the United States, everyone, especially caregivers, are feeling some anxiety and isolation. A large percentage of caregivers already feel isolated and with the need for social distancing, the feeling can escalate.
How can we use our March focus on self-acceptance as an opportunity to help with social distancing?
We spent the month sharing and talking about what to add to our life and what to let go of to get to a place of accepting OURSELF. It is hard enough right now without picking apart ourselves. Brene’ Brown, a professor, researcher, and storyteller, advises, “Let go of who you think you are supposed to be and BE who you are.”
But how do we apply this to life and, life as a caregiver, when the demands and expectations of providing care are high?
As I began to set out this month creating the Simple ‘Self-Care’ Suggestions, I began to think about how well I measured up to the self-acceptance test. Turns out, more than once or twice, I picked apart something about myself. “My hair is a mess” or “I didn’t get enough done today.”
The one thing that made me begin to explore what I needed to put in place to become completely satisfied with myself was, “I just don’t measure up to the standards of what is expected.” Wow, talk about self-evaluation.
So, I took the opportunity to create suggestions based on the word, OURSELF. Hopefully, something resonates with you and gives you a better understanding of accepting “self.”
- Offer up compassion and forgive self
- Understand our past is not who we are
- Recognize and accept our weaknesses
- Self-acceptance ≠ Self-improvement
- Express happiness
- Let go of guilt and commit to personal growth
- Forgo keeping score with self
These suggestions remind me of an anonymous quote I found poking around the internet: “The greatest challenge in life is discovering who you are… The second greatest is being happy with what you find.” Family caregivers come to mind, and I think about how difficult it is for them to be happy with self when the demands of the role are sending a different message.
Stress Lowers Self-Acceptance
The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP Caregiving in the U.S. 2015 – Executive Summary indicates that as the demands of the tasks for the care receiver increase, so does stress for family caregivers. As stress increases, self-acceptance decreases.
I hear a lot of caregivers say they are doing things to provide care that they never thought they would be doing and, in some instances, caregivers feel like they are not living up to the expectations of the role. Unhappiness and feelings of inadequacy set in.
Most of the research I have seen on caregiver identity has to do with how the caregiver sees themselves in the role of caregiver. As mentioned earlier, as the demands increase so does the change in how a person sees themselves in this role. But being around care receiver decline can cause a compounding affect.
Hope Grows is here to help. We have been providing emotional support for caregivers since 2012 through our phone check in program, mental health counseling, and therapeutic respite activities and short breaks. Reach out if you are struggling and keep in mind that Alex Hailey once said, “You have to deal with the fact that your life is your life.” No matter how difficult things may be, we need to look ourselves in the mirror and say, “I am doing the best that I can” and open the mind to the thought that, my weaknesses, albeit recognizable, are an opportunity for acceptance and growth.