The Overwhelm Trap
Often as parents and carers, we are so busy coordinating and caring; that we aren’t mindful of our own behaviours and emotions. Or if we are, we attempt to suppress and ignore them.
With strict care regimes and the necessities of treatments, medications, appointments, specialists, therapies, endless paperwork and advocacy; there just doesn’t seem to be much time left for anything else!
Over time, we inevitably come to accept the emotional ups and downs and take them as a ‘given’. We convince ourselves that this is just ‘life’. We find ourselves putting our needs last and accept the fact that what we want and need doesn’t matter anymore; or that no one understands. It’s so easy to arrive in this place, and it can sneak up on you without you even realising it.
Are you caught in the trap?
Have you been struggling with any of the following?
- Decline in physical or mental health
- Trying to be everything to everybody
- Uncertainty over the future
- Little or no support from family and friends
- Adjusting to the perceptions of your role as a carer
- Guilt over trying to find time for yourself, or not finding any time at all
- Financial difficulty, or
- Finding the right care, resources and support?
If you have answered “Yes” to any of these, then you could be headed down the road of overwhelm and heading straight towards burnout.
But, here is the good news: it doesn’t have to be that way!
Be aware of the signs and symptoms
In my experience, characteristics of overwhelm and burnout are different for everybody, but can include:
- Mood changes/mood swings
- Emotional instability
- Changes in appetite
- Distracted and forgetful
- Aches, pains, colds and infection
It’s common to feel guilty if we take some time out for ourselves. So how do we find that balance (what is balance anyway)?
Make space in your cup
Emma Holdsworth, the founder of Tree House Counselling, believes that we each have a cup; and with carers, it’s often full right to the top, or overflowing.
She believes that the best way we can protect ourselves is to find ways to create space in our cup; that it is important to give ourselves permission to take care of us. If there is no space in our cup, then we are not actually able to serve the people we are caring for – not the way we want or need to:
“It’s not selfish to do the things to create that space; it’s completely selfless. What you are doing is creating space to be able to care for other people. I feel that the best way for people to do that is to have a community around them. I know that the word ‘self-care’ is used a lot and I think it’s really important to look after ourselves; but I think it’s also important to have people that can help look after you, I think that’s a really vital part of it.
… Self-care has this connotation that it’s all about you, and what you do for yourself, but I think that building that community around you and having that sense of a tribe of people that care for you so that you can care for others, I think it’s really important as far as protecting ourselves and looking out for ourselves.”
So where can you start?
I believe there are a few key areas that are critical to overcoming overwhelm and creating space in our cup. They all impact on a person’s mental, physical and emotional health in one way or another. Some of these key areas include:
COMMUNITY: Connect with like-minded people who get it and you… and are able to provide you with the support you need. This can be online or in your physical community. Perhaps it is a community you gather where others are facing similar issues? Maybe a community group?
SELF-CARE: Looking after yourself and doing things you enjoy, is a gift to you and your family. Everyone benefits as you will have seen above. Finding a balance that works for you is critical…. Balance is a dangerous word. What I mean by this is, have your plans flexible, your needs and those you care for will change every day. Adjusting your routine accordingly is a great way for you to find balance.
PERSPECTIVE: At times we “can’t see the wood for the trees”. Working with a coach, counsellor or a friend can help us get clarity & a plan to move forward. Taking a step back before responding to a situation and assessing from another “perspective” can shape our natural response and change our behaviours and thought processes too… ie. imagine you are overlooking someone you care about in the same situation – what advice would you give then?
PERSONAL HEALTH: Nutrition, Physical Activity, Sleep Quality and even Hydration can heavily impact on your ability to cope with stress effectively. I know this from personal experience. Having support and structure here is critical to your ongoing mental health.
VOICE: When we don’t feel heard or feel like we can’t communicate adequately our needs or the needs of those we care for this creates overwhelm. Getting help, while difficult, can be one of the best things you can do for you and your family.
BREATH: How often do you stop to purposefully breathe? Like really breathe? Deep breaths will immediately help with your stress response! Sounds simple hey? You just need to be mindful of doing it and practice it like you would anything else. Long deep breaths, in for the count of four and the same out.
PERMISSION: Giving yourself permission and making positive changes in any one of these areas, can have a profound impact on your mental and physical health. Small changes over time will have long-lasting impacts.
LETTING GO: Letting go of the “should’s and could’s” we tell ourselves. Setting unrealistic high expectations of ourselves can lead to significant mental health issues and we can set ourselves on a path to “failure” (in our own minds).
SUPPORT: Seeking support, both formal and informal is crucial. To put your hand up and ask for help is NOT giving up, is NOT admitting defeat and is certainly NOT a sign of weakness! Support isn’t always in the form of a human being. Support can also be in the form of how you prepare your surroundings to deal with your day to day life and the situations you know will occur.
To put your hand up and ask for help is NOT giving up, is NOT admitting defeat and is certainly NOT a sign of weakness!
ACCESSING HELP & SUPPORT IS ONE OF THE MOST COURAGEOUS MOVES YOU CAN MAKE
We are here to support you!
At The Carers Place, we provide a safe and enjoyable space for carers and parents to have the opportunity to speak, share and learn without risking judgement or ridicule.
Can you identify one of the things you could do with a little support or help with? We would love to help you in the community!
Why not join our private closed group Facebook community Parents and Carers Connect, The Carers Place and be supported?
I trust this information is helpful to you and assists you in clearing some of the overwhelm in your life!
Shared with permission for the Motivate Lounge