Why are so many care partners having such a rough time? The daily physical demands can be overwhelming, of course. But it is more than just fatigue that caregivers are facing each day. The emotional drain for many caregivers is doing them in.
The emotions we experience are not just based on caregiving but can be much more profound. We come to this time in our lives with tremendous empathy and compassion for others. But what about ourselves? Why is it so difficult for caregivers to look upon themselves with the same kindness they dole out?
Many caregivers can’t seem to hear me when we begin our work together. They are stuck in fight, flight or freeze mode. The roller coaster ride plays out as they reel from anger to guilt to compassion and on to a feeling of helplessness.
So what ‘s happening? Fight, flight or freeze begins in the body. It can become a habit based on ancient trauma. We all have experienced trauma in our lives. This injury does not have to be a significant catastrophic or violent event. It can be an experience that seems benign or silly. We may not even recall it as adults. But it had a negative impact and has shaped who we are and how we respond today. We store these traumas, large or small, in our bodies.
Trauma is fear.
When an event in our caregiving triggers us, we react in ways that confuse us. We may not understand why we are responding in such a way that we could never have imagined. Without realizing, we may be responding to an incident from years ago.
What can we do?
We can become more aware of our bodies. The body is pure wisdom. It will tell you everything you need to know. When you feel anxious, angry, or tense, take a moment. Pause before you act and see where in your body the emotion lives. Is there a hard spot? A tenseness? Can you go there? When you discover it, create an image of putting your arms around it. Be present to that area of your body for a moment with kindness and empathy.
With practice, this will get easier. Your whole self will respond with peace and gratitude.
Is it possible to be empathic toward yourself right now? There has never been a more critical time than now.
“Trauma is not what happens to us but what we hold inside in the absence of an empathetic witness.” Peter Levine
I am intent on helping caregivers connect to their whole selves. I believe this journey of caregiving can be more than a blip on our screen. It can be a fulfilling part of who we are.
If I can be of help to you at any time, please be in touch.