Emotional Health Resources

 

Caregiving and Health

The need to maintain our emotional and physical health as caregivers is extremely important - so much rides on our being fit to take care of our children, and ourselves!  A recent study shows that caregiver health is in a downward spiral, and that caregiver's own health and well-being is often sacrificed for the one(s) they are caring for.  The caregiver's poor health can even become so big of a problem that the caregiver is in danger of being unable to take care of their loved one.  That is another reason for our website: we want to play a part in reversing that trend!  A 2006 USA Today article on the above mentioned study and on caregivers' health, pinpoints this problem and discusses the research, and reality that we face.  I personally live caregiver stress and know the problems that 24/7/365 caregiving can present to my health and well-being.  As a cancer survivor, I keenly feel the need to be careful with my own health while I am caring for my children.  I know that I want something better for all family caregivers.  Emotional health is key to our motivations for physical health, and physical health contributes greatly to our emotional health.  One step at a time, we can move into a balanced, whole and healthy life.    - Lynn Morgan Rosser

Your Emotional Health

Please see the Caregiver's Well for Journaling and poetry writing as self-care.  Also, See Relaxation Techniques for Caregivers.  A healthy lifestyle can greatly contribute to your emotional health.  Please see Caregiver Health & Wellness on our site. The links below are to sites that are helpful for emotional health.  Please know that it is important to seek professional counseling when you need it - none of the information on this site is intended to replace professional psychological or psychiatric care.  If you think you are experiencing depression or anxiety, which is not unusual for parent-caregivers, please obtain a professional evaluation.

Self-Compassion (a counter to self-criticism)
http://www.self-compassion.org/
Self-Compassion is the ability to look at yourself kindly, to allow for human failings, and to focus not on guilt, but on growth.  We hope that our children will learn from the mistakes they make as they grow into the fullness of who they are.  Can we hope the same for ourselves?  Can we put our problems and our failings into a perspective that allows mistakes?  It's not about letting ourselves off the hook, or exaggerating our egos so that we can 'do no wrong.'  It is about allowing ourselves to be human, to recognize when we fall down and allow ourselves compassion, so that we can pick ourselves back up and grow into our best selves.

Mindfulness (psychology of present-moment awareness and compassion for emotional health)
http://www.mindfulnessinstitute.ca/
'Mindfulness' is a concept of staying in the present moment, of being aware and awake.   Mindfulness can help you find the moment between an event and your reaction to that event, to empower your choice.  In other words, it helps you to relax and think before you act, which is a key skill in managing emotions (brief article on emotional health at Family Doctor). We have the ability to choose how we react to a source of stress, and can change how we might habitually behave.  For example, if your child has just had an aggressive tantrum and you are feeling shaken, your heart is beating fast, your jaw is clenched, your body is tensed for action and you need to soothe yourself so you almost unconsciously grab a bag of potato chips and start chomping down big handfuls.  Your reaction to the stress of the tantrum is almost automatic and you've allowed an unhealthy coping mechanism (eating to soothe stress) to rule and then beating yourself up later for taking in so many excess calories.  In mindfulness, you would observe how your body felt after the incident, noticing the fast heartbeat and the clenched jaw and other symptoms of adrenalin.  You would find the moment between reactiveness (going for the chips without thinking) and your point of choice.  You might choose to focus on your breathing and try to slow your body down.  You might choose to drop your shoulders and allow your body to relax (see relaxation techniques).  You might choose self-compassion and tell yourself that the tantrum was very hard, that anyone in your position would have felt stress and the grief that can come with seeing your child out of control and aggressive.  You could breathe in self-compassion and also choose compassion for your child - they couldn't really help getting so out of control once they started.  You could choose to take a break, if possible, or to do some quick exercises to get rid of remaining tension - in other words, you have the power to choose something different, something healthy, something compassionate.  

See also:
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/crisis-knocks/201003/mindfulness-based-stress-reduction-what-it-is-how-it-helps

 

Finding Meaning in Life (this site has excellent articles for your psychological well-being)  Finding meaning in your life is incredibly important - having a sense of 'mission' and meaning, spiritual connection and contribution can make a major difference in how difficulties are perceived, motivation is maintained, etc.  Simply put, helping others is a great way to put your own troubles into perspective, to empower yourself with the knowledge that your contribution matters, to help you feel connected to the people around you and to your own best qualities.  It really is better to give than to receive;  however, when we are the ones who so often are needing the help of others, it is humbling and beautiful to know that by gracefully receiving, we are allowing others the gift of finding meaning in their own lives.  Being interconnected in this way, both giving when we can and receiving when we are in need, helps to keep the fabric of relationship and community strong, and our emotional well-being intact.
http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/



Resilience
- a major coping strategy for emotional and mental health.  Being able to "bounce back" from the difficulties and challenges of life is a critical skill for caregivers! 
Bounce Back - The Resilient Caregiver - article on this site

American Psychological Association article on cultivating Resilience 
http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx# 

General Mental & Emotional Health Information
National Institute of Health (NIH) MedlinePlus - Mental Health
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/mentalhealth.html

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