Caregivers are angels walking on earth. They are tireless in their devotion and committed to doing whatever it takes to make sure those they love are safe, protected and supported.
This deep sense of commitment can carry with it a need to be perfect with no room for error or anything less than super-hero qualities. Caregivers often set themselves up with unreachable goals and unrealistic expectations.
However, to err is to be human and to be overwhelmed and exhausted is caregiving at its best.
Sadly, often caregivers refuse to allow themselves to be human and have no patience for themselves when they aren’t perfect. When caregivers feel they can’t do it all alone, they feel guilty about asking for help, guilty about making the wrong decisions, guilty about the amount and quality of the time they give to their loved ones and then feel guilty about feeling guilty.
By allowing ourselves to be human and finding satisfaction with our personal best, we have less need to feel guilty and more opportunities to feel good about ourselves.
We must remember that it’s progress, not perfection we are working towards and that the secret of serenity lies in the ability to be as kind to ourselves as we are to those we care for. By acknowledging we are always moving forward and doing the very best we can we are stronger and healthier. Our hearts are fuller, our bodies rested and we are stronger to meet the daily challenges we face.
To that end, I developed and used the following strategies to soothe and comfort myself when I was feeling that my best wasn’t good enough, when I found myself feeling guilty about the job I was doing and how I was doing it. Try these strategies for some guilt-free living!
Do not stay by yourself in your own head. They say that by keeping your thoughts to yourself you are staying behind enemy lines! When we listen to the judge and jury in our heads that puts us down and questions every move we make, we are asking for trouble.
Pay attention to the negative comments going on in your mind especially when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired and realize that it’s time to reach out and connect with someone else. Get feedback and support.
Open up and share what you are feeling and what you are going through. Seek out other caregivers or caregiver groups in your community. The Alzheimer’s Association is always a great place to find help and connection. Talking to someone you trust will give you a new perspective.
When guilt starts to settle in, get moving! You need a break. Period. Find a way to take a walk, exercise, have a cup of coffee with a friend, or if possible pick one of your favorite hobbies and enjoy it even for 15 minutes.
If you have the time, get a manicure, do some shopping, take a brisk walk. Shake the guilt up by refusing to sit and ruminate about it. Grab some “me time” to recharge. Distract yourself and engage in something that makes you feel good.
There are millions of reasons why we beat ourselves up. Everyone does it from time to time but caregivers seem to have a special club membership! Of all people! If you are beating yourself up, stop it! The acts of kindness, love, and concern for another’s life and welfare you display make you a miracle worker.
Give yourself a break and end the self-criticism. You are enough, you have enough, you do enough! Make a list of three great qualities you have that make you special and help you be the accomplished caregiver that you are.
Put the list somewhere you can see it easily and look at it often to remind you how precious you are.
Treat yourself as you would a friend. Try and see all the extraordinary service you give to your loved ones. Make a list at the end of the day of all the things you accomplished and situations you handled with grace and efficiency.
Remind yourself you are doing the best you can all day, every day. Praise and acknowledge yourself as you would a friend who needs cheering up. Look in the mirror and see an angel of mercy and caring. Tell that angel how wonderful you are! Guilt be gone!
I’d love your feedback about this difficult feeling. Do you feel guilty sometimes as a caregiver? What tactics do you use to get rid of feeling guilty? How do you stop the habit of beating yourself up? Please join the conversation.