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.
As the holiday season comes around, it is common for couples to experience an increase in stress. For couples, in particular, stress can manifest from visiting family, attending holiday work parties, deciding how much to spend on gifts, and/or hosting family gatherings. It is often miscommunication and misunderstandings that cause a couple to argue vs. enjoying this time of year. Below are a few suggestions I offer couples as a way to maximize their happiness and reduce relationship strain during the holiday season.
1). Plan Ahead - review your schedule for the holiday month. Events like office parties, family gatherings, celebrations with friends, etc., should be discussed with your partner at the beginning of the month. Doing so can help prevent the stress that often results when a couple makes conflicting plans. Aside from discussing it, marking it on a calendar is imperative to remembering what was discussed and minimize unnecessary follow up and/or scheduling conflicts that can lead to arguments.
2). Discuss Your Expectations - once you are both aware of upcoming commitments, the next step is to talk about what each of you expects from the other. In other words, do you view your partner’s presence at an event as an indication of how much they care about you? Is there a preference for which family gets visited this year or first? Such questions, often lead to arguments if unanswered. Getting clarification beforehand can help prevent feelings of disappointment, sadness and/or anger.
3). Review your budget - establishing a plan regarding how much each of you will spend on each other and/or on family can also help prevent relationship strain. Some areas that couples will experience strain tend to be around one person going over budget, one partner buying gifts for members that the other partner thought was unnecessary, etc. Reviewing your budget and setting expectations about holiday gifts, early-on, can help keep you both on the same page and reduce the chances of arguing.
4). Compromise - one of the best things a couple can do during the holiday season is get comfortable with compromising. Sharing the holidays with a significant other means you most likely will have to split your time with both sets of friends and family. Making comprises like spending the eve of a major holiday with your partner’s family and the actual holiday with your family or vice versa can help you both feel like you are getting something without sacrificing everything.
Aside from the suggestions above, do you have any others that you would recommend to help couples make the most of the holiday season? If so, please share them below.
In a previous post, I discussed the unique hardships young caregivers experience when faced with the responsibility of caring for a loved one. A dynamic that is especially true when young caregivers are also going through life transitions like finishing up college, embarking on a new career and/or starting a new family. In this post, I share a few strategies young caregivers can employ to help make caregiving more manageable:
1) Identify what needs to be done - make a list of what needs to be done for your loved one and for yourself. The list for your loved one should include everything from quick tasks like picking up medications to more intense tasks like physically assisting them with bathing, dressing, eating, etc. as well as everything in between. The list for yourself should include tasks and goals associated with your career, relationships, and anything else that pertains to your personal life.
2) Be realistic and structured with your time - Having such a list is meant to visually show you what your day really looks vs. what you think it looks like. Having a greater understanding of what your day to day responsibilities are can, in many cases, help you create more structure. More structure has the potential to reduce any anxiety that can arise from feeling overwhelmed and feeling like you are losing control.
Once you know what needs to be structured, the next step is to utilize tools like a calendar, a notepad, etc. Whether used in a hard copy or an app format, such tools can help remind you about appointments, deadlines, events, pertinent contact information and important discussions with your loved one's medical team and service collaborators. Use of a calendar, specifically, can also help you maintain a level of sanity as it help prevents overbooking or overpromising.
3) Learn how to delegate - Now that you have a clear picture of what you must handle for yourself and your loved one, identify and explore which tasks can be handled by others. In other words, if you find yourself spending a lot of time going to the grocery store to pick up essentials or escorting your loved one to doctor's appointments, perhaps there is someone else in your family or social circle who can pitch in. Delegating tasks can relieve the stress associated with trying to manage it all.
4) Rally the troops - In order to delegate, it means you have to "ask for help" - one of the hardest things for caregivers to do. While there are numerous reasons to explain this hardship, some of the most common include fear of being judged and/or having pride. Rallying the troops basically entails finding resources in your community that can help make your life more manageable. This can include home care assistance, shopping services, food/medication delivery services, etc. In other words, the goal is to find other individuals and/or programs that can help out so that you don't have to do it all.
The strategies mentioned above are simply a starting point I recommend for the majority of caregivers I work with. Once such strategies are implemented, it then allows us to get a better sense of what will work and what needs to be modified. Caring for a loved one while navigating life milestones can be difficult but it is not impossible. Hopefully these strategies can help you get a good start.
Have you found any of the above to be helpful in your caregiving experience? Do you have other strategies you would recommend to other caregivers? If so, please share so below.
Recently, I was interviewed by Carol Bradley Bursack, founder of Minding Our Elders, for an article she was writing about compassion fatigue. During this interview, she asked me to define compassion fatigue and identify some of the warning signs family caregivers can look out for as they are providing care to a loved one. Below is information I provided her with along with proactive steps caregivers can take to try to prevent compassion fatigue.
Compassion fatigue is an extreme state of great tension and stress that can result in feelings of hopelessness, indifference, pessimism and overall disinterest in other people's issues.
With regard to caregivers, compassion fatigue can manifest itself through actions like yelling, hitting, neglecting a loved one, etc. Basically, any action that is not characteristic of a caregiver's typical behavior but is now present and consistent. While some may simplify and attribute this change in behavior to frustration and/or resentment, it is important to understand that compassion fatigue is not something that occurs overnight. It is the result of days, weeks, months and years of managing caregiving responsibilities that are often unrecognized, emotionally demanding, physically exhausting and seem endless. As a result, it is not uncommon for feelings of frustration, resentment, hopelessness, guilt and/or a diminished sense of self to manifest.
Being proactive is one of the best ways to combat compassion fatigue or at least prevent it from getting out of hand. First and foremost, be aware of the warning signs:
Being aware of the changes in your behavior is the first step. The next step is to begin making yourself a priority and tend to, at the very least, some of your needs. While many caregivers feel this is impossible to do, it is important to understand that if you don't make time for yourself, no one else will. Start by allocating, at minimum, five minutes in your day to eat, pray, dance, laugh, walk, sing, read an inspirational quote, meditate, chat with a friend, the list can go on and on. My point is to give yourself a mental and physical break from actively caring for a loved one. The ability to do so in small bursts can allow you to begin the practice of caring for yourself and hopefully get you to do more of it in the future.
Having a non-judgmental outlet to express your thoughts can also prevent compassion fatigue. Outlets like a personal journal, talking with a confidant, or seeking advice from a healthcare professional can help you with processing your feelings and offer a safe place to release your pent up feelings.
If you find yourself already experiencing compassion fatigue, then let others know and seek professional help. Believing it will subside, especially while you are still actively caring for a loved one, can cause some individuals to become depressed, develop panic attacks and/or potentially put their loved one in harm's way.
Do you have any questions about preventing compassion fatigue or how to better care for yourself? Feel free to ask them below.