Caring for the elderly and others in need can bring up just about every emotion under the sun, from feeling fortunate and fulfilled, to feeling frustrated or sad. Caregiving can be very rewarding, but it also has its challenges. For each of us, there will be days when we focus on something we maybe could have done better. This is perfectly normal, but when we are always hard on ourselves and focus only on what we see as our shortcomings we can become emotionally exhausted and even experience burnout. One solution to this problem is learning to celebrate your own accomplishments, no matter how small, and having compassion for yourself!
Celebrate Your Accomplishments
In the DailyCaring.com article, Reduce Caregiver Stress by Celebrating Accomplishments, it reads: “As a caregiver, it’s natural to focus on what went wrong… or on what you could improve… But what about all the amazing things you accomplish daily? It might sound overly simplistic, but celebrating accomplishments, both big and small, is an effective way to reduce stress… Those wins deserve recognition.”
As human beings, we often look to others to tell us we are doing a good job. While it feels good to receive praise and appreciation, what we tell ourselves and how we feel about ourselves also has a huge impact on our self-esteem. According to the DailyCaring article, “…getting into the habit of celebrating your successes increases positive emotions like self-respect, happiness, and confidence. It also reduces stress and boosts your mood because you’re focused on the positive.”
As a caregiver, your “small wins” (which are huge wins in our book) might look something like this:
- After refusing everyone else’s help, my client/parent allowed me to help them take a shower.
- My client/family member smiled when we sat together and looked at photographs.
- By the end of my shift, my client had finished drinking the full bottle of Ensure.
- The day was sunny, and I finished my tasks with time left to take my client to the park.
Give yourself credit. Your “small wins” brightened another person’s day.
Show Compassion — to Yourself!
According to Dr. Kristin Neff in a different DailyCaring article, Give Yourself a Break; Try Self-Compassion for Caregivers,”Being self-compassionate means extending the same kindness and sympathy toward yourself just as you would to a good friend.” Dr. Neff’s research found that “people who are compassionate to themselves are much less likely to be depressed, anxious, and stressed. They’re much more likely to be happy, resilient, and optimistic about their future.”
Caregivers spend so much time giving to others, it may seem odd to think about showing compassion to oneself. But doing so is an important part of self-care, and one way to accomplish this is to be your own best friend!
The DailyCaring article asks caregivers to stop the next time they are feeling frustrated or unhappy, and consider what they would say if a friend came to them with the same problem. If it was you, “you would probably respond kindly, sympathize with their frustrations, [and] remind them of the things they do well… You wouldn’t tear them down or say mean things to them.”
As a professional or family caregiver, there are times when you will feel drained or frustrated. At those times it is useful to seek support from colleagues and supervisors, family members and friends. But you can also learn to be a friend to yourself and acknowledge your “wins,” no matter how small. You deserve respect and appreciation so don’t forget to show yourself self-compassion.