Taking Care of Yourself While You Care for Others
At some point in our lives, we experience physical symptoms of anxiety and stress. Why? Because we are often asked to care for a very ill, infirm or disabled loved one. At such times, they especially need our unconditional love,
devotion, attention and dedication. They also need an advocate to guide them through the health care maze and assure that they receive the adequate medical care.
But what about us? This is a period of great uncertainty as we try to decipher all of the options and make the right choices. Confusion? You bet! We can easily feel overwhelmed, impatient, intolerant, and desperate. It is almost inevitable that we will experience feelings or guilt, resentment, self recrimination, inadequacy and self rejection. These negative emotions are connected to fear. We will also feel exhaustion: both physical and emotional.
Statistically, most primary care givers are mothers and daughters. But this is not always the case. I would like to tell you about Mark. Mark is a wonderful man with outstanding qualities. He is responsible, hard working, lovable, generous and caring. Mark is also at a time in his life when he is facing many challenges. One is packed with fear, uncertainty, confusion and guilt: his father is suffering with Alzheimer’s disease, and Mark is the only sibling available to step in as the primary care giver.
Caring for dad adds high levels of stress and anxiety into his life. Mark has a demanding career, a beautiful family to support and alimony obligations. His job is demanding, and presently he is struggling with the added burden of digging out of a financial hole created by losses incurred in the bad economy. Mark is overwhelmed. He wants to be a great husband, a superb dad, a great provider and a compassionate and caring son. His ex-wife is unfazed by his crisis and demands more financial support than he can provide. Dad no longer recognizes him, and he is struggling with both a sense of loss and a nagging thought in his mind: has he done enough?
As wonderful a man as Mark is, it is only natural that he sees the impositions that life has placed upon him as unfair. Of course, that thought leads to more guilt. A vicious cycle ensues. This entrapment he sees seems to have no exit.
His wife and children complain that Mark is too tired most of the time, and has no energy left for them. Take his son to soccer practice? No time. Take his daughter to dance class? No time. Enjoy a night out with his wife? No time.
Yes, life can be tough at times, and it strikes at us with challenges that seem impossible to resolve. Nevertheless, it is better to address them with the healthiest attitude that allows us to live a life of dignity and joy: not just to function and survive.
The implications we see in Marks situation can have endless ripple effects if they are not addressed timely, properly and with a new perspective. The possible negative consequences can escalate.
Mark’s health is already deteriorating. He is suffering with intestinal problems, insomnia and anxiety attacks symptoms. He also feels isolated. His wife feels neglected; his intimate life is nonexistent, and his children feel abandoned. Mark used to include them in his life and participated fully in their upbringing. Suddenly, he became an absentee father and their connection is fractured.
Mark is not only experiencing health problems, but emotional tribulations as well. Mark is not sleeping well. One of the consequences of his sleep deprivation is constant, never ending fatigue. As a result he is short-tempered and his job performance is diminishing. To add to his woes, mark is saturated with extra assignments at the office, doing the work of three people since the recent downsizing. His co-workers can’t help noticing his stress and impatience.
Fortunately, there is a simple course of action to rescue people like Mark. The secret resides within “the self”. There is a three-step formula that is available to everyone at virtually no cost.
Mark needs to stop ruminating over the situation, and accept the reality of his circumstances. He can then makes peace with them and move on with new perspectives. He doesn’t need to change his circumstances, he needs to empower himself to manage them in a more creative way.
Next, Mark needs to start meditating. As he works inwardly through meditation, he will begin accessing powerful forces in the universe, making incremental changes in his life. His circumstances will begin to change: first slowly, and then, dramatically.
When we transcend the physical through meditation, we enter a citadel of pure consciousness. By accessing the wisdom of the collective unconscious that fills the Universe, we uncover new, better options. We harness the eternal wisdom to re-structure our lives. When we are connected to this unlimited Source, new opportunities, solutions and resources show up just when we need them.
Through meditation we see the impurities, beliefs, patterns and habits that make us miserable. How does this apply to Mark? Little by little by putting things in a different light, he can start changing his circumstances. The source of wisdom in the collective unconscious will empower him. He will tap into a well of energy that will reinvigorate him. He will be more creative, and commence living all of his roles with joy: father, husband, provider and care giver. If he starts enjoying and honoring who he is, without experiencing feelings of guilt, he can start resolving his challenges more effectively.
And as he does so, all of the knowledge, wisdom, financial resources and helpers that he needs to be a care giver will appear as if by magic.
Mark has a choice: either stay miserable, or decide to live his life in a way that gives him pleasure and fulfillment. Mark was so concerned about the physical symptoms of anxiety and stress that he chose the three-step path to wellness.
To summarize, the antidote to Mark’s dilemma (and the dilemmas of so many others like him) contains three elements:
1) Embrace your current circumstances instead of struggling against them. This is the first step toward positive change.
2) Access the wisdom of the Universe (the collective unconscious) through the frequent practice of meditation. As a crisis management and life coach, I frequently say, “build up your meditation muscles through constant practice.”
3) Recognize the new resources that enter your life through Spirit. Through meditation, you opened the channel to all of the resources that you will ever need. And, the added gift for you? Healing, unbound energy.
I would like to close with a wonderful revelation from Deepak Chopra’s amazing wisdom on the fourth Spiritual Law of Success, which is the Law of Least Effort:
…“This law is based on the fact that nature’s intelligence functions with effortless ease and abandoned care freeness.
…There are three components in the Law of Least Effort-three things you can do to put this principle of “do less and accomplish more” into action.
The first component is acceptance….”Today I will accept people, situations, circumstances, and events as they occur.” This means I will know that this moment is as it should be, because the whole Universe is as it should be. This moment-the one you are experiencing right now-is the culmination of all the moments you have experienced in the past. This moment is as it is because the entire Universe is as it is.
When you struggle against this moment, you are actually struggling against the entire Universe.
The second component of the Law of Least Effort: responsibility. What does responsibility mean? Responsibility means, not blaming anyone or anything for this situation, including yourself. Having accepted this circumstance, this event, this problem, responsibility then means the ability to have a creative response to the situation as it is now. All problems have the seed of opportunity, and the awareness allows you to take the moment and transform it to a better situation or thing.
When ever confronted by a tyrant, tormentor, teacher, friend, or foe (they all mean the same thing) remind yourself, “This moment is as it should be.” …There is a hidden meaning behind all events, and this hidden meaning is serving your own evolution.
The third component of the Law of Least Effort is defenselessness.
…When you become defensive, blame others, and do not accept and surrender to the moment, your life meets resistance. Any time you encounter resistance, recognize that if you force the situation, the resistance will only increase. You don’t want to stand rigid like a tall oak that cracks and collapses in the storm. Instead you want to be flexible, like a reed that bends with the storm and survives.
…If you embrace the present and become one with it, and merge with it, you will experience a fire a glow, a sparkle of ecstasy throbbing in every living sentient being. As you begin to experience this exaltation of Spirit in everything that is alive, as you become intimate with it, joy will be born within you, and you will drop the terrible burdens and encumbrances of defensiveness, resentment, and hurtfulness. Only then will you become lighthearted, carefree, joyous, and free.”