The holiday season, for the most part, brings a sense of excitement and happiness to many individuals who look forward to being around family and friends, celebrating traditions, and having shorter work weeks. There are, however, other sentiments that individuals experience as well that are not as often discussed; Anxiety, anger, exhaustion, depressed are just a few.
Anxiety - Holidays often equate to participating in family gatherings, which depending on family dynamics, can cause an individual to worry about various things. Concerns regarding religious and/or political disagreements, mom's approval of a new partner, whether dad will continue to express his disappointment with your career choice, etc., are just a few. Stressing about caring for your parents or spouse can also can also provoke anxiety .
Depression - individuals who lack a support system, are not involved in a significant relationship or are going through a life-hardship can feel depressed and isolated. This time of year can trigger one's feeling of loneliness. Questions like, "What are you doing for the holiday?" and/or relationship oriented commercials can serve as reminders of what they don't currently have.
Emotional exhaustion - sometimes the mere thought of all the planning, traveling and socializing a person will have to engage in, is enough to bring about a "cloud of gloom" or a sense of " being worked up." In other cases, memory of last year's disorder, dysfunction or drama can serve as a reminder of what an individual does not want to experience again. Plus, let's not forget the multitude of questions/interrogations from friends and family an individual may have to respond to regarding the status of their life (i.e. being single, having children, etc.)
With all of that said, it is important to be aware of your feelings during this time of year and learn how to cope and control them so as to prevent it from getting the better of you. Talking with friends and family you trust can help you learn how to best address your concerns. In some cases, a therapeutic professional can also prove beneficial to help sort out the various thoughts/feelings that some individuals don't fully understand.
Do you notice a negative affect on your well-being during the holiday season? Please share your thoughts below as well as any questions you may have.
Seeing a loved one suffer with depression is not an easy sight and at times can cause YOU to feel hopeless. For some individuals, depression can be debilitating and painful, making even the thought of getting help seem impossible. Trying to help someone who is depressed can be exhausting and met with many barriers. Arming yourself with knowledge, however, may help make the process easier. Below are a few suggestions of things to consider if you are trying to help someone you know.
Learn about Depression - there are many misconceptions about depression. Believing a person is lazy, weak and/or not interested in getting better are a few perceptions that individuals may have. Depression, is in fact, a common disorder that can be caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors. Generally speaking, interventions like medications, psychotherapy, and social support are needed in order to help alleviate symptoms.
Avoid Judgment - aside from understanding what depression is, it is also important to avoid judging your loved one. Being judgmental may cause your loved one to disregard what you are saying, especially if he/she is in denial of their symptoms. Being supportive by educating them about symptoms, options and resources can help provide the support they need and hopefully allow them to get some help.
Take Suicidal Talk Seriously - if your loved one has thoughts of hurting himself/herself it is important to contact his/her doctor right away or contact 911 if warranted. If they have not mentioned suicidal thoughts, be sure ask him/her directly so as to rule out the possibility. While some individuals may see this topic at taboo, it is crucial to know if these thoughts are floating around your loved one's head so that you can ensure treatment with the proper healthcare professional is obtained immediately.
Research Resources - knowing what types of assistance are available can help convince your loved one to reach out for help. Resources like local support groups, reading materials, online websites, etc., can help alleviate the feeling of isolation your loved one may be experiencing. Have this information handy when talking with him/her so that it will be immediately available when he/she needs it. Also consider including contact information for the National Suicide Hotline. This can be especially beneficial if your loved one is too ashamed to tell you the truth about his/her thoughts.
Aside from those listed above and those in the comments, what else should be included in this brief list of suggestions? Please share your thoughts below.
There may come a moment in your life, when you realize a loved one is in need of medical and/or a psychological attention due to physical, behavioral or mental changes they are exhibiting. Determining how and when to get them assistance can be difficult, anxiety-provoking, and filled with many unknowns. Below, are a few recommendations to consider if you are trying to get your loved one the medical/psychological attention you believe they need.
Talk with your loved one
Try to discuss your concerns with the person you are worried about. You may want to relay specific changes you have noticed and why you are concerned. If possible, try to refrain from making accusations, prematurely diagnosing, or becoming negative. The goal for this type of conversation is to relay what you have noticed, why are your worried and to express your feelings. Attaching feelings to your concerns may help your loved one feel reassured about your purpose. In other words, you don't want to give the impression that you are trying to control his/her life.
Should your loved one acknowledge a problem, consider arranging an immediate appointment with his/her primary physician or any other health care professional who believe is relevant to the problem identified. Your focus should be to serve as a support system to your loved one and help facilitate appointments and communication between any and all parties involved.
In the event your loved one denies having any problems and you are certain something is wrong, then consider some of the recommendations below. Keep in mind that factors like the relationship you have with your loved one, living far away, etc., may render some of these recommendations difficult to implement. Generally speaking, however, these are methods that have worked for some families.
Talk with friends, neighbors and/or other relatives
If you are unable to talk with your loved one directly, you may wish to discuss your concern with individuals who interact with your loved one on a frequent basis. This can be another relative, a close friend or even a neighbor. While you may not want to divulge anything about your loved one's well-being to people you don't know well, it could help give you better insight into what's going on with them.
Reach out to your loved one's Health Care Provider
Relaying your concern to your loved one's physician/mental health provider may be beneficial - provided you have his/her contact information. Be aware, however, that due to confidentiality regulations many health care professionals will not divulge any information regarding his/her patient's care. If a direct conversation with your loved one's provider is not possible, consider writing a letter explaining your reason for such contact, what you are noticing about your loved one and why you are concerned. At the very least, you will be notifying the provider and hopefully contributing to a more thorough evaluation the next time your loved one visits.
Plan an Unannounced Visit
An unexpected visit can be a great way of obtaining a glimpse of what is going on with your loved one, especially if you don't visit often. Visiting someone's home can often give you insight in to their priorities and functional capabilities. In other words, you want to assess things like the cleanliness of the home, their personal hygiene, their food supply and compare it to when your loved one was fine. Any changes could be further confirmation that something is wrong.
Reach out for Community Support
Depending on the specifics of your situation, you may find yourself needing additional "outside" support, especially if your loved one is refusing assistance but clearly needs some type of "intervention." If so, you may want to try reaching out to the department of social services or local mental health providers to inquire what, if anything, can be done to help your loved one. Certain cities and states have programs in place to help someone who may be at risk.
In the event you learn that there are no services to assist or that your "hands are tied", and it is causing you anxiety, my suggestion is to consider seeking therapy for yourself. Doing so can help alleviate the symptoms you are experiencing and may help prevent them from getting worse.
Do you have any other suggestions on getting a loved one help? Please share them below.
For some individuals, seeing a therapist is a necessary component to their ability to function. For others, therapy is viewed as a temporary solution to get over a "bump in the road." Regardless of how you view therapy, it is important to be aware of some of the common issues individuals may experience which could indicate the need for therapy. Below are a few of those issues:
1) Trouble Sleeping – any significant changes like difficulty in falling asleep, staying asleep or sleeping too much is usually a sign that something is wrong. Barring any underlying medical conditions, it is important to understand how problems related to work, home, health, or even within a relationship usually have a way of "creeping up" on an individual once they are settling in to relax. This can especially be true if an individual is trying to postpone dealing with a particular issue or is unsure how to cope.
2) Significant Changes in Your Normal Routine – changes associated with lose of appetite, mood, lack of interest in hobbies, etc., may also be a sign that therapy is warranted - especially if there is no medical explanation for the behavioral change. Regardless of how big or small the change is perceived, if significant enough, it can trigger an emotional and physiological response that the person may have little to no cotnrol over. Being able to identify changes in one's routine, can help an individual be proactive about getting the appropriate medical and/or mental health care needed.
3) Lack of a Support Network – the inability for an individual to speak with family or friends about what they are feeling is generally the result of either not having a supportive network or believing the network will be judgmental. Having someone to talk to regarding your innermost thoughts along with the ability to obtain constructive feedback, can be beneficial in many different ways. Therapy allows for such support, feedback and validation.
Knowing when you should seek therapy is definitely not as easy as it sounds. Being aware of some of the above changes, however, could allow for someone to reach out sooner as opposed to when they feel hopeless.
Do you have any other changes/symptoms you feel are important when trying to identify when someone should seek therapy? If so, please share them below.
Confrontation is an act many of us have engaged in as the result of trying to resolve a problem. For some people, confrontation is a normal part of the problem-solving process while for others it is something avoided at all costs. While there are many reasons one chooses to avoid confrontation, the root cause is usually the same - it produces anxiety. Below are a few reasons some people experience anxiety with regard to confrontation.
Fear of Being Disliked - voicing your opinion about what you feel is justified or fair ultimately means that the person sitting across from you may not like what they hear. As a result, they may not like you. For some individuals who want to be liked, need to be liked or simply do not want to ruin a relationship, forgoing a confrontation is viewed as the best way to maintain stability.
Afraid of Arguing - some individuals avoid confrontation for fear it will turn into a verbal altercation filled with angry outbursts and harsh words. For people who are afraid of arguing, the refusal to confront someone else is generally rooted in the desire to avoid a verbal fight. As a result, such individuals will generally concede to what is asked of them as opposed to saying otherwise -thereby leaving themselves open to being taken advantage of.
Inability to Articulate Thoughts - being involved in a confrontation often means emotions can get the better of you and impede on your ability to get your point across. Depending on who you are speaking with, this could lead to a person disregarding what you are saying. Should this happen frequently enough, it has the potential to cause a person to believe that expressing his/her thoughts is useless.
Confronting another individual can be hard for many people to do, especially if they are experiencing anxiety in relation to the reasons described above. And while some people will exhibit this type of behavior without any immediate consequences, the truth is, long-term avoidance may ultimately lead to getting taken advantage of, not achieving your goals and being unhappy. With some help, however, it is possible to learn new ways to overcome these issues so that you can be happy and get what you deserve out of life.
Do you have other reasons you would like to share about why someone may avoid confrontation? Or maybe you have overcome your own avoidance of confrontation? Please share your thoughts and/or stories below.
Improve my self-esteem? Be more positive and less stressed? Work on my personal relationship(s)? The list can go on and on. Regardless of what is on your Resolution list, it is important to remember there are certain aspects that must hold true in order to increase your chances of success and reduce the likelihood of failing to achieve your goals/desires for this year.
1). It Must Come From You- many of our intentions for change originate from good places but they are not often our own. In many cases, they can be other people's recommendations or beliefs of what we should look like, how we should be living our life and/or what type of relationship we should be in. And while you may want to pursue such changes, unless you truly have the desire to embark on the journey for yourself, the chances of success can be minimal. Therefore, make sure your goal is what YOU really want.
2). You Must Have a Plan - Once you identify what YOU want to work on, you then have to decide how to get there. Devising a plan can make the attainment of your goal much more realistic. For instance, if your goal is to improve your relationship(s), then sit down with a pen and paper and begin listing what specifically you want to improve, why it needs improving, and how you can do so. Essentially, you want to outline the steps you need to take so as to achieve your goal. Depending on your goal, this step can be difficult. Should you find yourself stuck, consider reaching out to family, friends or a professional to help you.
3) You Will Need Perseverance - Any aspiration worth attaining usually takes "blood, sweat and tears." In other words, hard work, dedication and sacrifice are usually required; Hence, why the first two points are extremely important. When things get tough, when you find yourself exhausted and want to quit, refer back to your reason(s) for pursuing your goal(s) and review your plan of action. Doing so can help reignite your spirit and give you more energy to continue forward.
Whether you are trying to lose weight, trying to improve your personal relationship or want to enhance who you are as a person, the above steps can be beneficial to achieving success.
What other strategies or recommendations do you believe can help? Please share them below.
Throughout my work with clients and even just in my own social circle, a common question arises...."What does a healthy relationship consist of?" In a previous post, I discussed 2 key components to a healthy relationship and in this post, I will add two more. While there are many factors that contribute to a thriving relationship, the amount of compromise and love that is shared between a couple is vital.
Compromise - a relationship consists of two separate individuals who generally have different personalities, upbringings, values and thoughts. Problems can arise when the two individuals either do not know how to come to terms over something they disagree with or are unwilling to do so. This can lead to a stubbornness mentality or "tit for tat" relationship, where each person becomes more focused on winning their side of the argument which ultimately causes a relationship to deteriorate.
The act of comprising cannot be seen as "giving in" but rather as a willingness to meet your partner halfway and respect his/her individual opinions; much like you probably did when you first started dating. Compromising is a skill that requires listening and communication - something that can be hard to do when a couple is at odds with each other and emotions get in the way. This is where guidance from trusted sources like a religious/spiritual affiliate, a relationship counselor and/or seminars, workshops and books geared to relationships can help. Once you are educated, patience and practice is then needed to enhance this skill.
Love - according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, love is "a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person." At the core of any relationship, a certain level of affection, concern, care and regard for the person you are with is needed in order to overcome certain differences. Love is often the stepping stone that allows us to be more considerate and respectful of our significant other's views. While love will not resolve all issues within a relationship, it is a strong force that can pave the way for better communication and compromise.
What are some of the resources you used to enhance your love and ability to compromise with your partner? Please share your thoughts below.
The Oxford Dictionary of Psychology defines anxiety as "a state of uneasiness, accompanied by dysphoria and somatic signs and symptoms of tension, focused on apprehension of possible failure, misfortune, or danger."
So now you may be thinking to yourself, "What does that all mean and how do I know if I'm suffering from anxiety?" Anxiety is basically the reaction one has to stressful events that can cause a person to feel nervous, tense and/or apprehensive. There is no denying that many of us suffer from some form of anxiety but how it affects our daily lives is what we need to look out for when determining whether or not to get help.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to determine whether you should be reaching out for help...
If you answered "Yes" to most of these questions, then you may be suffering from anxiety. One of the first steps you can take is to schedule an appointment with a physician to rule out any medical conditions. Medical conditions like thyroid problems, diabetes, etc., can cause physiological symptoms like heart palpitations, headaches, nausea, etc., thus causing you to feel like you are anxious. Appropriate treatment usually alleviates the anxious feeling.
If medical conditions are not the cause for the anxiety, you should then consider speaking with a therapist. By collaborating with a trained professional, you both can work together to get to the bottom of what is causing the anxiety. For example, are there life changing events that are causing additional stress? Events like a new job, a new relationship, caring for a loved one, etc. can each cause anxiety. The goal of therapy should be to learn strategies and techniques that you can incorporate into your daily routine so as to help reduce the anxiety and/or minimize it's impact on your your ability to function and feel good.
Do you have any questions about anxiety? Maybe you know of some strategies that have worked for you or someone you know? If so, please share them below.
A few posts ago, I discussed challenges young caregivers face as well as ways they can balance their personal life with caregiving. In response to those posts, I was contacted by Feylyn Lewis, a PhD Social Work Candidate and caregiver herself, who is currently doing her doctoral research on young adult caregivers residing in the UK and the US. As a result of her research, she offered some insight on how young adult caregivers can self-advocate so as to decrease the stress that often accompanies being a caregiver. Below are her suggestions:
Self-Advocacy Tips for Young Caregivers
by Feylyn Lewis
In the United States, there are an estimated 1.4 million caregiving youth (children under the age of 18), and nearly 10 million Millennial caregivers (aged 18-34 years old). Of the millions of young caregivers, I believe every single one is an advocate. Advocacy means that you speak up for another person’s needs, views, and try to help them get support. As caregivers, advocacy is a way of life. You may speak to health or social care professionals on behalf of your family member, coordinate service care delivery, oversee your family member’s medication administration, and manage your family’s household. You are the expert on your family member’s care.
While you are well-versed in advocating for your family, you may find speaking up for yourself more difficult to do. As a young caregiver, self-advocacy can present its own set of unique challenges.
What are barriers to self-advocacy?
Lack of awareness in society & unsupportive environments: Unfortunately, many people do not yet recognize the vital role young caregivers play in our society. This lack of awareness often means that people do not understand your caring role and how it can impact all parts of your life. Society also tends to overlook and disregard the experiences of young people with caregiving responsibilities, and health professionals may not view you as a “caregiver” because of your youth.
Fear of mistreatment & associated stigma: You may stay quiet about your caring role because you don’t want well-intentioned professors, bosses, or friends to worry over you and treat you differently than everyone else. At work, your supervisor or co-workers may not understand your life as a caregiver, and you may might fear losing your job. If you provide care for someone with a socially stigmatized condition, e.g., mental illness, visible physical disabilities, or HIV-AIDS, you may fear that by speaking out as a caregiver, you will also “out” the condition of the person you care for.
No support available: In some situations, those around may already know that something is “up”, because of late or missed days at school or work. Conversely, you may be very open about caregiving. In such scenarios, people are aware of your caring role, but you find that there is little or no support available to you as a young caregiver. Supportive services may be directed towards your family member, rather than you, the caregiver.
What are ways to self-advocate?
Despite its challenges, the act of speaking up for yourself is impactful and meaningful. Every time you engage in self-advocacy, you continue to spread awareness about young caregivers. Even in the seemingly small moments, your words and actions demonstrate to society that young caregivers exist and matter.
Express your needs and desires within your family: To combat potential feelings of resentment, it is important to keep the lines of communication open in your family. You may want to engage in family group conferences to discuss current and future care plans. If you foresee sharing or shifting caregiving tasks to younger siblings, you’ll want to discuss with them the practicalities of the caring role and what this will mean for everyone in the family.
Inform doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals that you are a critical participant in your family member’s care, and express your desire to be involved in discussions.
Tell professors, administrators, work supervisors, and friends about your caring role and the ways it impacts your life. This may mean requesting a “grace period” to submit assignments, asking for flexible schedules and work hours, requesting to keep your cell phone turned on and kept with you, in case your family member needs to reach you in an emergency, etc. Self-advocacy in the workplace also means knowing your legal rights, so that you may be aware of potential issues of workplace discrimination.
Ask for help: Seek out extended family members, neighbors, or friends to help with caregiving tasks, or to give you a bit of respite. You may also wish to contact supportive organizations for help.
Monitor your own mental health and well-being: Take breaks (even just for a few minutes), practice self-care, exercise, and maintain a healthy diet. Keep up to date with your own doctor’s appointments and annual tests. You may wish to attend support groups and/or seek out a mental health professional if needed.
Get involved: Call or write your government representatives and vote. Use technology and social media to your advantage: there are several online caregiver support groups on Facebook and Twitter, and they can be a great way to meet other caregivers, ask advice, or vent! You could start a blog about your experience as a young caregiver or post videos to YouTube. You may also want to share your caregiving story through participation in caregiver research studies; this can be an impactful way to help other caregivers on a wider scale!
Remain encouraged as you seek to advocate for yourself. You serve an irreplaceable role in our society and you deserve recognition and support!
Can you think of other ways to self-advocate? How have you advocated for yourself and did you find it helpful? Please share your comments/suggestions below.
Feylyn M. Lewis, M.A., NCC, a PhD Social Work Candidate at the School of Social Policy at The University of Birmingham, has been a caregiver to her mother for 18 years, since the age of 11 years old. Having experienced being a young caregiver, her devotion to improving the lives of young caregivers inspired her to move in England in 2013 to pursue her PhD under the supervision of Professor Saul Becker, world-renown research in the field of child and young adult caregivers. Her doctoral research focuses on the identity development of young adult caregivers living in the United Kingdom and United States. While completing my doctoral research, she remains committed to raising the profile of young caregivers through blog writing, podcasts, and speaking engagements around the world. You can connect with her via Twitter (@FeylynLewis) and at the Huffington Post.
Being a family caregiver can cause complications in many different areas of a caregiver's life. One area that is often not discussed is a caregiver's love life. For many, caring for another relative can place a significant strain on his/her relationship and in some cases can lead to a break-up or divorce. Whether you are single, married, divorced, or widowed, trying to juggle the responsibilities of caregiving with the time and dedication needed to maintain or pursue a relationship can be challenging. For a caregiver who is married it's not uncommon for his/her spouse to have unmet needs, feel neglected and even experience feelings of anger and resentment. For a caregiver who is single, divorced or widowed, maintaining or pursuing a relationship can be difficult and in some cases nearly impossible. Below are a few tips for both married and single caregivers that may help in enhancing a current or future relationship.
Be upfront about what each one of you expects from the other. Doing so can help in clearing up any assumptions or misunderstandings. It can also go a long way in reducing potential arguments.
Explain Your Concerns
Talk about your worries and hesitations regarding your caregiving role and your relationship. By "laying it out on the table" both of you can gain a better sense of what each one is concerned about and hopefully have a better idea of how to support each other throughout this difficult journey.
Reminisce and Envision
Think back to when you first met and remind yourselves why are your married. Doing so may help reignited your passion and remind you about the bigger picture. Envision the bigger picture as a motivating factor to get through the hard times together.
Be Honest About Your Role
Describing what your day-to-day routine looks like to a potential partner can help set the stage for a relationship that is flexible and understanding. Clearing up expectations can also help minimize arguments that commonly arise when you have to cancel plans or cannot commit to something in advance because of your caregiving role.
Schedule "Date" Time
If at all possible, consider setting a day, evening or weekend when you can spend alone time with your companion. Having other relatives, friends or neighbors "check-in" on your loved one, spend an afternoon with him/her, etc., can give you some time to get away and focus on your relationship. This tip is also a must for caregivers who are married.
Know Your Limitations
If being in a "full-time" relationship is not possible, it doesn't mean you can't mingle and socialize with other individuals. A social life is just as important as your caregiving role. It's just one of the many things needed in order to take care of yourself.
There is no question that we can all benefit from being in a loving, caring and supportive relationship with a companion that can fulfill our emotional, spiritual and physical needs. Being a family caregiver, especially a primary one or a young caregiver, should not serve as a complete barrier to having a healthy and thriving relationship.
What have you found to be helpful when balancing love and caregiving? Please share your comment/suggestion below.