Are you experiencing caregiver stress? If yes, learning self-compassion with caregiver stress can be an important tool to help your mental well-being. Worry, anger, anxiety, loneliness or depression. Self-compassion can help you manage these negative thoughts and feelings.
As a caregiver day after day, you may feel many negative emotions or thoughts. For instance, grief over the loss of your previous life and routine. Anger at the unrelentless job you were given. You may feel fear or anxiety of what the future holds. Or, perhaps you are overwhelmed with doctor appointments, bills, meal preparation, house maintence. and work.
So, how do you deal with these negative thoughts and emotions?
In last week’s blog I talked about how self-compassion can help improve mental well-being for people living with a chronic condition. In a similar way, practicing self-compassion with caregiver stress can help your mental well-being too. Without self-compassion, you can become lost in the negative thoughts and feelings. If you let negative thoughts and feelings linger, you may eventually become depressed. Therefore, having self-compassion with caregiver stress is an important skill for mental well-being.
So, how can you develop the skills of self-compassion?
Think Compassionate Thoughts
One way is to think compassionate thoughts on purpose. Compassionate thoughts include characteristics of forgiveness, kindness, and understanding.
For example, maybe your husband’s illness took a turn for the worse recently. Before his illness, you split duties in the house. He paid the bills, managed the retirement investments, and maintained the cars.
But now, he is too sick to help, and you are taking on everything. Your finances have been particularly hard to figure out. You have struggled to make sense of exactly what bills you have, when they are due, and how to pay them online. Recently, you were late on 2 bills last month and now owe late fees.
You could tell yourself that you are incapable of handling the finances. That you will only mess things up. You might even tell yourself that you can’t learn something new like this at your age. Or, you can treat yourself with compassion. New thoughts to tell yourself might be, “I’m not an incapable person. I just haven’t had to do this before, so I am going to make mistakes. Anyone in my situation could make the same mistakes. I will get better as I go along.”
In this example, we see three components of self-compassionate thoughts.
You acknowledge your failure or mistake. But you don’t let it define you as a person or caregiver.
You show kindness to yourself by realizing that it is human nature to make mistakes. Especially when we are overwhelmed or learning something new, or both.
Looking forward, you acknowledge that you will do better with more practice and time.
In another example, you are impatient with your loved one when they don’t get ready for a doctor’s appointment on time. You tried to get them moving sooner, but they didn’t listen. Now, you are running late for the appointment. Frustration and stress boil over and you yell at your loved one. Almost immediately you feel bad and disappointed for losing your temper.
You can beat yourself up about being a bad partner. Or, you could manage the negative thoughts in your head with compassion. “I am not a bad partner. I just lost my temper because I was trying to get us to the appointment on time. Someone else in my position might have lost their temper too. I will apologize to my loved one and work harder to be patient next time.”
So, thoughts that are kind, forgiving, and understanding can help us be compassionate to ourselves. And growing in self-compassion can improve our mental well-being. Self-compassion can also:
- Improve coping skills
- decrease anxiety and depression
- improve relationships.
Kristin Neff, PhD, puts it more simply. She says learning self-compassion “enables people to suffer less while also helping them thrive”.
Let self-compassion help you to suffer less and thrive as a caregiver.
So, how can you think self-compassionate thoughts on purpose today?
Stay tuned for next week’s blog for more ideas on how to practice self-compassion.
Disclaimer: This blog is a resource through which you may obtain information regarding your health and wellness. Information is intended for the general reader and is not a substitute for medical advice. The content in this blog is intended to be informational only and not interpreted as specific advice for you. There may be delays, omissions, or inaccuracies in information contained in this blog. You should always consult with a licensed healthcare professional who is familiar with your health and past medical history before making any changes you may read about in this blog.