Caring for Yourself When Someone Else is Struggling

For many of us, self-care is difficult. I read a very helpful article in The Guardian a couple weeks ago. It was written by Poorna Bell, a woman whose husband battled depression. Her opening quote really struck me:

“There is no lightning-bolt moment when you realise you are losing your sense of self; just an absence. When you are caring for someone you love, your wants and needs are supplanted by theirs, because what you want, more than anything, is for them to be well.”

This can be true if your loved one is struggling with depression/anxiety/bipolar disorder, a chronic physical illness, or is simply a young, needy child. It can be very difficult to remember to “put on your oxygen mask first, before assisting those traveling with you” as flight attendants instruct us.

Emotional Fuel Tank To use a different analogy, each of us has an emotional tank that fuels our daily interactions. Just like the gas tank on your car, you put fuel in and you use it up. If there’s a crisis across town that you need to drive to, and you’re on empty, you MUST stop at the gas station first if you’re going to make it there. It’s the same with your emotional tank: if it’s empty, you have nothing to give, no matter how dire the need of your loved one.

That being said, it’s important to regularly fuel your emotional tank, so you’re ready for whatever life throws your way. Sometimes you can afford to fill up. Other times, fuel is expensive and you can only put $10 in the tank. Fill-ups of your emotional tank might include a vacation, or an evening laughing with friends. Things that add a little fuel to your tank could be a short walk on your lunch break, spending 30 minutes reading at the end of a busy day, or mindfully enjoying your morning coffee. Being mindful of the positive things all throughout the day puts a bit of fuel in your tank many times.

So start to consider–what refreshes you? What provides a sense of enjoyment or wonder? Then begin to build these things into your daily life and take time to enjoy and be grateful for them as they are happening. When you can, plan something a little more involved. There’s some evidence that even planning an event like a vacation can give a bit of refreshment, your mind taking a break while it dreams about this special time away.

Katie Walker Waypoint Counseling Washington MOIf you’d like to talk about your grief or any other issue that you may be struggling with, I would be happy to meet with you personally. Just give me a call at 636-234-0035 and we’ll schedule a time to talk. My office is conveniently located in downtown Washington Missouri across from the Old Dutch Restaurant.

I look forward to helping you feel better!

Katie Walker, Licensed Professional Counselor




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