This post is part of a series on Caregiver Strength. You can read the first post, Caregiver Strength – Patience, here.
Many times as a caregiver, you feel like you need super powers just to get through the day. If only you could fly, you wouldn’t have to rush to get to that appointment. If you had superhuman strength, getting Mom into the bathtub or carrying in groceries without making three trips would be a breeze. And let’s not pretend we have never dreamed of being able to read someone’s mind or escape from it all by becoming invisible.
Chances are pretty good that none of us actually have any of these super powers, but that doesn't mean we have to feel hopeless. We just have to be determined.
We all have determination – in fact it’s one of our strongest caregiver muscles. The challenge here isn’t developing the muscle, rather it’s learning how to use it properly. Remember the old saying “lift with your legs, not your back”? Determination is like your legs; it’s what allows you to move forward even when things are trying to hold you back . But often times, it’s our emotions that get in the way of our big, strong determination.
It is easy to find yourself in moments of despair, depression, or just plain sadness or madness. Let’s face it, you have a lot going on and a lot working against you. This is the perfect time to train that determination muscle.
As a warm up, embrace your feelings and remind yourself that it’s ok to feel <insert emotion, any emotion>. We have feelings for a reason – don’t ignore them. And there are no “bad” feelings, so stop beating yourself up because you think it’s wrong to feel a certain way. You are allowed to have emotions.
Now that you have embraced your emotion, it’s time to identify the issue that has created these feelings and come up with a plan to resolve that issue. Did you notice we aren’t trying to resolve your feelings? Your feelings are a result of something else, and that something else is what needs your attention.
Are you feeling resentful? Go ahead, feel the resentment in all its glory. Tighten your fist and grit your teeth. And if you’re anything like me, take a few minutes to have a pity party – go ahead, it’s ok, we are embracing our feelings, remember?
Now it’s time to identify why you are feeling so much resentment. Maybe it’s because your siblings don’t share in Mom’s care, or perhaps you gave up a career you loved to care for Dad. Write down what is causing your resentment.
Now what can be done to resolve the issue? I’ll be honest – this is the hard part, but remember: easy is for sissies, and caregivers aren't sissies. Your siblings may not be willing to help, and staying connected to your career may not be easy now that you’re a caregiver. If your siblings just won’t pitch in to care for Mom, then the resolution may simply be forgiveness, and yes, that will take a lot of determination and deep breaths. If you miss the career you left to become a full-time family caregiver, maybe you can find ways to stay engaged. Find an online forum that specializes in your industry, subscribe to a related business magazine, or maybe even do some freelance work.
The strength of your determination and how you use it are big factors in your success as a caregiver. If you use your determination to never give up and to keep moving forward towards something, you have purpose. And whether your purpose for the moment is getting Mom to the doctor, working with your siblings to care for Dad, or just getting dinner on the table, determination will move you forward better than any superpower you could imagine.
Next month we will discuss the forgiveness muscle needed when you’re a caregiver. If you’re a caregiver and have a story about forgiveness, I’d love to hear it. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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