So who else here read the title to this blog post and thought: how did she know? I felt the same way. Can I be real for a second? I am constantly struggling with overcoming the overwhelm. What I do every day is hard – rewarding and fulfilling and totally worthwhile, yes. But also hard. There is no shame in admitting it and I know many of my friends are wrestling with those feelings, too. Maybe you’ve also been feeling it. This one’s for you.
Overcoming the Overwhelm of Caregiving
Caregiving is one of the most powerful contributions we can make in the world. It’s also one of the hardest. And unfortunately, while the world certainly sees the need for the caregivers among us—the mothers caring for their children, the adult children caring for their parents, and those in the unique position of doing both simultaneously—it often fails to acknowledge the true depth of the contributions they make or reward them for their efforts. And even less frequently does it provide them with the support they need to deal with the sense of overwhelm that frequently accompanies being the primary caregiver to another person. The result? While caregivers understand the importance of what they do and continue to do it faithfully, they may feel unappreciated, unseen, or unrecognized.
Well today, I want to tell you something important…I SEE YOU.
I see the hours you spend investing your time and energy in the well-being of those other than yourself. I see how often you forego things you want to do for yourself so you have the time to serve others. I see how you push through your own exhaustion in order to meet the needs of everyone but yourself. I see how few thank yous you may get for the many things you are taking ownership of. I see the impact you are having that often seems to go unnoticed. I see the overwhelm you feel that you don’t want anyone else to see.
But I don’t just see you, I understand you. I understand the importance of your contributions and the strength it takes to care for others. I understand how often your own needs go unmet because you are busy focusing on other people’s. I understand how frustrated you can get…and how guilty you can feel because of it. I understand that you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders every single day. And while I may not be able to give you an extra dose of strength, meet your needs, remove your feelings of frustration and guilt, or lift the weight of the responsibility you carry, what I CAN do is remind you of a few things you may have forgotten…including some things you can do to help keep the overwhelm of caretaking from taking over.
Only you can determine the best path for your caretaking journey.
While there may be others who have similar responsibilities, no one else has experienced YOUR unique situation. So while it’s great to look outside your own circumstances for ideas or inspiration, it is important to remember that each person’s caretaking journey is unique. And only YOU get to decide what works for you and what doesn’t and what you need and what you don’t.
There is nothing wrong with asking for help.
As much as it’s important to remember that YOU are the only person who gets to decide what your journey looks like, it is equally if not more important to remember that you do NOT need to try to navigate it on your own. And there is NOTHING shameful about asking for help. Even when it may not feel like it, you are surrounded by a community of people who care about you and want to support you. Let them.
When things are most difficult, it’s important to remember the love.
When much of our time and energy is spent taking care of others, it is easy to feel depleted. And the more depleted or exhausted we feel, the easier it is to let the frustrations that come with being a caregiver enter the forefront of our minds, In these moments, it is easy to become irritable or inpatient, both with others and ourselves. In these moments, it is critical to remember the love.
There is power in celebrating the little things.
In the life of a caregiver, things can often feel like they are moving at 100mph with no rest in sight. But it is important to find time to celebrate all of the small, wonderful moments that happen along the way. Taking the time to “stop and smell the roses” is essential. And if it seems like there isn’t time? You must find it! Even if it’s a simple pause at a stoplight on the way to a school event, a couple minutes in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, or a few moments before bed…take time to express gratitude or reflect on the day’s wins.
Prioritizing rest and self-care may feel unattainable, but they are essential.
As a caretaker, words like rest and self-care can feel almost laughable, especially when the needs of a newborn, a sick child, or an ailing parent seem to take over our lives. But it is during these times in particular when we must be vigilant about taking care of our own needs. The saying that you can’t pour from an empty cup is never truer than when you are trying to spend all of your time and energy focused on the needs of another. So when you are feeling your MOST depleted, that is the time to double-check that you are taking care of your own needs rather than letting them be subsumed by the needs of others.
Wonderful caretaker, the road that you are traveling is a complex one, full of joys and challenges. Please remember that YOU are so important and so valuable, just as you are.
About the Author:
Becky Upchurch is a Transition and Growth Coach and the founder of Higher Good Coaching, LLC. She partners with professional women who are ready to move from fear, uncertainty, and inaction to a place where they are proactively creating sustainable change that supports the lives they truly want.
Those interested in connecting with Becky are encouraged to join The Women’s Growth Circle (www.facebook.com/groups/TheWomensGrowthCircle), her Facebook community for growth-minded women looking for support, inspiration, resources, and community along their journeys. You can also find her on Instagram (@Higher_Good_Coaching) or contact her directly via email at Becky@highergoodcoaching.com.