When someone that you love is in recovery, as a result of either trauma of addiction (or as a combination of the two) it is understandable that all of your focus and energies will be on assisting them as much as possible. However being a caregiver to someone in recovery can be a truly draining, time consuming, stressful and thankless job. It will probably be one of the hardest jobs you will ever do, and when you are so busy caring for your loved one, it is unlikely that you will take any time out to care for yourself. However not being kind to yourself and taking time out when you need it is the biggest mistake that any caregiver can make. Experienced caregiver Mel Younger shares below proven techniques that can serve you to de-stress your life if you find yourself in the role of being a caregiver.
Caregivers and Self-Neglect
The very nature of recovery is chaotic, because the nature of addiction is chaotic. When you are caregiving for someone who lives and instinctively chaotic lifestyle, you will quickly begin to replicate that chaos in your own life. However it is important to stop, to take a step back, and not to neglect yourself and your own needs. Whilst you are busy advocating for someone else, and being someone else’s rock, it is easy to forget to advocate for yourself. You cannot spend all of your time giving yourself to someone else: this will only lead to stress and ultimately to burn out. Your own life is important, and shouldn’t be eclipsed by the trauma that someone else is experiencing: this may well only lead to a breakdown and ensuing trauma of your own.
Reduce Your Stress
If you are a caregiver and you are experiencing inordinate levels of stress that you simply cannot cope with then it is time to immediately take a step back and take care of yourself. You then need to re-evaluate your situation and find new techniques to help you deal with the stress that is sure to arise on a day to day basis whilst you are caregiving for someone who is in recovery. Here are some wonderful tips for helping you to reduce your caregiver stress:
Learn – By understanding how the brain functions and how and why the person you are caregiving for is acting and behaving in the way there are, you are more likely to have insight and understanding towards their behaviour. This can help you to keep your cool when you are feeling frustrated.
Motivate, don’t shame – When someone’s behaviour is frustrating or seems irrational it can be very easy to shame them, belittle them, or even blame them for their behaviour. However treating them this way won’t motivate them, which ultimately will only prolong their journey to recovery.
Allow time – You can’t speed up the healing and recovery process. In fact, the slower the recovery processes the more likely it is to be a success. Appreciating that the recovery will take time means that you will have plenty of time to care for yourself too.
Rejuvenate– Listen to your body. It will tell you when you need to take some time out to decompress. Don’t ignore the signs that your body and energies are being overloaded and that you need a break.
Take a step back: When you need to, take a step back and remember that the only person that can help your loved one to recover and make healthy choices is themselves. If you take the time out to take a break and heal yourself, it will have no real impact on their recovery process. It will, however, make a big difference to you.
It is important that you continue to have a life outside of your role as a caregiver. Whilst you are a caregiver right now, you will not always be and your role as a caregiver really shouldn’t define you. There is no easy solution to helping you maintain your own autonomy, but it is essential that you try to be your own person and take time out for yourself whenever you can.
To find out more about how you can mitigate the chaos of being a caregiver to an individual in recovery, you can read the full version of this article here.