Strategies for coping with a strained relationship
Give yourself permission to be angry or resentful about your caregiving role, suggests Roberta Cole, author of "Caregiving From the Heart." “The only way you are going to work things through is to acknowledge that those are feelings you have a right to feel.
Focus on the present. Amy Baker, author of "Slow Dancing at Death's Door" stresses the need for "getting angry and getting over it." You can do this, in part, by learning how to separate the past from the present when dealing with, for example, a strained parent-child relationship.
Practice forgiveness. Treat your feelings–for yourself and the person for whom you are caring—with compassion. “As hard as it is to do, realize that most people are only doing the best they can,” says Baker. “Their meanness or lack of love for you probably wasn’t malicious. They didn’t set out to hurt you.” Letting go can be transformative.
Ask for help from a third party, especially if you're feeling overwhelmed. Cole suggests seeking aid and advice from another relative, a friend, an elder care professional, or a clergyperson or spiritual counselor.
Turn it over to God's grace, suggests Baker. Sometimes the situation is too painful for you to handle on your own. Try surrendering your burden to a higher power through prayer or spiritual practice.
Taking Care of the Caregiver
Tend to basic needs. It’s difficult to care for a person in need if you yourself are run-down. Make sure to address your immediate needs for adequate rest and sound nutrition. Schedule in a few brief but potent breaks into your day. A short walk around the block helps or a catnap can do wonders to refresh you. If you can’t physically get away, you can literally take a “breather.”
Blow off steam. Do something active each day: walking, running, biking, swimming--anything that gets you moving. Take time to get outside and out into the world--even if it's just taking a walk down the street and back–and really pay attention to your surroundings. A regular mind/body practice can help you fight stress before it starts. Yoga, Pilates, qigong, and other mindful disciplines create greater flexibility and strength, as well as a relaxed body and mind.
Again, ask for help! Being a caregiver is an extremely demanding task. Rather than becoming overwhelmed and ineffective, ask someone to share the load before it becomes unbearable. It may be as simple as having a friend pick something up for you at the grocery.
Nurture yourself. Get your nails done, meet a friend for coffee. Take time to do something for you.