My friend sent me a message last week with the words “Some days I don’t know how you do it”. She often see’s us going through our own ups and downs with the mental and physical health of my son’s. She saw on Monday that after my son’s 3 week hospital admission, there was little improvement to his health status.
My friend, however, is going through an incredibly tough and confronting time herself. The whole family is and has been for many years with her having to face her own serious health battles too. Right now they are facing serious health issues for one of their children and are having to make decisions that will potentially affect the rest of their child’s quality of life.
The fact of the matter is, that she is trying to be strong for everyone but is on the verge of cracking herself. Not only is she trying to hold her family together during their own difficult times, she is dealing with grief and uncertainty around the health of one of her friends, who is terminally ill.
How do I respond? We all have our different stuff don’t we? Differing levels of resilience from person to person and environmental factors can change our ability to cope at any given time. So my response:
“Well I guess I figure all the worry and stress really doesn’t help me or anyone else. In fact, for me it makes it worse. I can’t think clearly, can’t function properly and I sure as hell can’t make decisions effectively. I guess I have practiced it (coping) over a long, long time.
Monday, I literally was coaching myself out loud. In the doc’s rooms I was totally shattered and deflated… I had to pull myself out of it. When I get like that I forget the important things, all of my why’s, fear creeps in and I am vulnerable.
This is when I am at my weakest. I make emotional decisions based on fear. Matt can’t afford for me to do that honey. Not anymore.”
In reality though, what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for you. I do know that for me, since I have focused on understanding my own behavioural patterns, emotional triggers and how I respond to certain stimulus, I have been better equipped to deal with the tough stuff! I believe that over time, it has helped me become more resilient. I try really hard to be mindful. Be in the moment. Have an awareness of what is going on while blocking out all of the thoughts and noise. Focusing on that moment alone and what needs to happen. In turn I am protecting my emotional energy and mental health.
Have you ever heard the saying “you can’t drink from and empty cup”? If we don’t look after ourselves, give back to ourselves and fill up our own cups, how can we possibly give the best of ourselves to others? We struggle to think clearly and lose focus if we don’t look after ourselves.
How do I fill up my cup? I know I need to:
- walk/exercise regularly
- enjoy nourishing food
- drink plenty of water
- have quality sleep
- get outside in the sunshine
- take time away from the never ending chores and
- connect with others
Setting up routines, creating lists and being as organised as I can be, come a very close second. Of course some days are better than others!
Being a carer is a tough gig. More often than not, you are given news that isn’t positive. Due to the nature of the situation, you are often in conversations with professionals and others that focus on the “negatives and challenges” needing attention. You could be forgiven for falling into the trap of feeling sad, sorry and helpless. This doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you human.
We do have a choice. In every situation we can choose our attitude, we can choose what to focus our attention on and we can choose our behaviours. It is not easy to begin with, but it becomes easier with practice. It is what I needed to do last week. We were dealt another blow about my son’s current health status. Deliberately I reminded myself of the bigger picture. Focus on the GOOD news and not on the single “negative” piece of news. I had to remind myself that “one measure of health” isn’t the current state of his whole health. That it is not a measure of him. I had to look at the bigger picture, at him, how he was doing within himself, what he was capable of AND how HE felt!
If you are ready to start focusing on the positives to really start gifting yourself some emotional freedom – you are in for some life changing activity right there! In addition to some of the simple self care techniques I listed above, there are other purposeful things you can do to help you choose your attitude. You could try and
- make up some flash cards each one with their own “positive” message OR positives in your life
- use the cards when you are going through a difficult time as little reminders of the bigger picture
- start a gratitude journal listing one thing you are grateful for each day
- perhaps focus on positive affirmations and manifestation
These are just a few things that could help you on your way.
I know my friend works extremely hard to look after her own mental health and that of her family. She knows she needs to care for herself and I think she does a marvellous job dealing with what comes her way. So it was lovely, after receiving her message earlier in the week, that I saw she had taken the time to connect deeply with her family through a common sporting interest they all have. I know this lifts the spirit of the entire family and no doubt helps their collective mental health.
How do you cope? How do you keep positive? Is it something you have to work at and are conscious about doing?
Pop on over to the Facebook group and let me know.
Until next time,