Mindful Caregiving 2

mindful caregiving

mindful caregiving

Mindful Caregiving 2

People in a care-giving role are likely to experience a variety of difficult feelings over the course of time. These feelings will vary as a result of their own personality, personal history, the nature of their relationship with the ill person, the degree of perceived support, and many other factors. The most important thing is to maintain a sense of openness and radical acceptance of one’s own feelings. Towards this end we need to cultivate a capacity to accurately and specifically label the feelings that arise during our caregiving experiences. We call this “emotional labeling”.

Sadly, we have, as a culture, become somewhat emotionally “dumbed down” in our ability to identify and articulate specific emotions. I often provide emotion adjective lists to my patients to assist them in specifying emotions and to increase their repertoire of emotional adjectives.

So what are the feelings most often encountered by caregivers?: Each and every feeling can be encountered. They are all natural reactions to difficult situations. Even mother Theresa admitted to encountering many difficult experiences during her work in Calcutta. So some of feelings that emerge are likely to be frustration, anger, helplessness, guilt (about feeling anger or that one isn’t doing enough), hopelessness, despair, futility, resignation, loneliness, sadness, loss, etc etc.

So, now that feelings have been identified, what does one do with them?

The answer is simple. Just watch the feeling. We no more control our feelings than we do the waves. In Taoism, there is a phrase “Wu Wei” which means going with, effortless action, letting go, etc. Going with the flow. In zen there is a saying, “Spring Comes and Grass grows By Itself”.

Simply watch the feelings, keep labeling and watch what happens.

In my book, I articulated a technique that I developed which I termed Emotional Surfing (please refern to blog posts on this subject e.g., https://blackturtlebooks.com/integrative-mindful-exposure-emotional-surfing/ ) . One is instructed to close their eyes and simply ride the waves of emotion  that occur in response to a difficult situation. It is also important to notice the physical sensations that emanate in the body and notice the changes that occur.

We ordinarily tend to avoid feelings and so they stay stuck in certain physical centers in our body. As we pay attention, and provide the healing energy of our attention, these physical energies will quickly unlock and start to move in a dynamic manner.

One may notice feelings arising, morphing and changing in kind, quality and location. As one relinquishes control people often quickly find deep levels of peace and acceptance even as difficult feelings arise. The feelings simply move on and pass as we learn to soften, and relinquish emotional control.

But the key is not to endeavor to conquer, control, manage feelings but simply to ” go with”. This develops sepf compassion which greatly translates to other compassion. As the Dalai Lama states, we must first learn to be compassionate with ourselves.

In this spirit, as caregivers, we must take every opportunity to care for ourselves in all ways.. social support, nutrition, sleep, exercise, hobbies, spiritual endeavors etc.

Other things to do with feelings:

Writing –  Research shows that opening up through writing can not only enhance psychological health but physical health as well. Please refer to earlier posts on the power of emotional writing. Maintaining a diary or journaling can be extremely helpful in this regard. Expect future blogs on this topic.

Social support – Research has amply shown the importance and value of emotional disclosure disclosing  in a supportive milieu whether that be with friends, family, support groups, even on-line groups. Expressing  your feelings associated with the difficulties of caregiving, and having them validated by others, especially with those who are undergoing similar experiences can be a source of tremendous support and help to minimize the detrimental impacts of stress.

Caregiving can be very rewarding. It can also be extremely challenging emotionally. Therefore, it is imperative to take care of your needs emotionally by staying mindfully present and fluidly giving expressive ot your emotional experiences. in all ways one needs to give care to one’s self in order to give care to others.

Comments and questions are warmly welcomed!















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