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.
At one point or another in our career life, we all run into a person who sucks the life out of being at work. Such individuals typically love to complain about their job, spread office gossip, highlight everything there is wrong in the World and add dramatic flare to whatever they are talking about. Underlying such behaviors are negative, pessimistic and dramatic personalities; Personalities that can make going into work dreadful.
Figuring out how to deal with negative people in the workplace can be challenging as there are many factors that need to be considered. Factors like, who is this person? Are they your superior? Do you have to work closely with them? Do they have a lot of clout within the company? Answers to such questions will not only impact what you say to them but how you deliver it - directly or indirectly.
The direct approach of dealing with a negative person generally entails being upfront with him/her about what you’re willing and not willing to tolerate. The indirect approach, on the other hand, centers more on being subtle and relying on the other person to pick up on your cues. Determining what approach is best to use can be done in a couple of steps.
First - evaluate the situation. As previously mentioned, ask yourself, “Who is this negative person and what is his/her role and level of influence within the company?” In other words, the approach you take needs to be tailored to the person you are dealing with. For example, let’s say the most toxic person in your office is your manager, who has been with the company for several years and spends his/her free time with the CEO. Taking the direct approach in telling them how you feel about his/her negativity may not be best. Especially, if you are a person who worries about what other’s think and/or are a newbie at the company. An indirect approach in this situation can be a great way to test the waters by allowing you to gauge his/her reaction.
Second - know thyself. Understanding your personality type, your insecurities and capabilities is just as important as evaluating the situation. For instance, are you the type of person who gets easily frustrated when trying to get your point across? Do you fear that others may not like you? Do you have difficulty being articulate? The answers to such questions can help you decide what approach to take. In other words, if you are a worry-wort/people-pleaser, being direct may rid you of the stress associated with dealing with the negative person but feelings of anxiety may take its place.
Once you have evaluated the situation and reflected on your strengths and weaknesses, then it is time to take action. While there are various steps you can take and things you can say, below are a few techniques that have worked for many of my clients dealing with negative people at work.
1). Set limits and boundaries with how you engage - negative people often have no problem spending valuable work time gossiping and/or complaining about others. While it may be intriguing to listen to, it is important to understand that by doing so, you are inadvertently letting them know you are okay with it.
In order to prevent this from becoming a routine it is imperative to nip it in the bud. Otherwise, it will set the stage for them to continue coming back to you. If utilizing the direct approach, you may want to say something like, "I'm sorry to hear you are having a rough day but I ___________ (fill in the blank) - prefer to stay out of office gossip, prefer to not get involved, don't have time for other people's problems, etc. The indirect approach would sound like, "Sorry to interrupt, but I really need to finish this task I'm working on." The point with either approach is to make it clear to the other person that work is your priority and will take precedent over gossip and drama.
Body language can also be used to subtly send a message. For example, if every time this negative person comes to your desk you completely turn around to face him/her, you are sending a message of interest to them. Instead, as they are talking, keep your body facing your computer/desk, organize some paperwork, sort through work emails, etc. The intention is not to be rude but instead to show you will not drop what you are doing simply because they came over and started chatting with you. This can result in shorter conversations if they see you are not giving them your undivided attention.
2) Minimize your Interactions - if possible, try to avoid going to lunch and/or on breaks with this person. Spending your free time with him/her can be seen by them as a perfect opportunity to have you as a captive audience. Should they inquire about taking lunch with you or going for a smoke, you can try indirectly saying something like, " While I normally would go, I have a few things I need to take care of so I'll be doing lunch on my own."
The key to this type of technique is that you must be assertive. Words like “think, should, maybe” are not to be used when you are relaying your message. Such words express doubt and uncertainty, thus increasing the likelihood that they will try to convince you otherwise. Being consistent with your message is also key as it will get them to see you as an unreliable source and can decrease the number of times they will interact with you.
Minimizing your interactions indirectly can also entail physically distancing yourself from him/her when possible. Try to avoid going to common gathering areas like the lunchroom, water cooler, bathroom, etc., when he/she is likely to be there. These are prime areas for getting sucked into conversations. If you work in a small office and he/she is a loud talker, try distancing yourself from their voice by wearing earbuds/headphones and listening to music. Doing so sometimes can give us the break we need from hearing what they have to say.
In some cases, unfortunately, the indirect approach will not work. This can be especially true for negative nellies who are persistent and/or lack respect for personal space. Being direct, therefore, is necessary. Statements like "Thanks for the invitation but I prefer to be alone on my breaks," or “I don’t like spending my down time thinking/hearing about other people’s drama” can definitely get the point across.
3) Keep Conversations Light and Friendly - one sure way to welcome a negative response is to ask open-ended questions. Questions like, "How was your weekend?," may normally get a response like, "Good. And you?" But, when dealing with a negative person, it can often turn into a play by play of how horrendous their weekend was. Instead, keep the interaction simple and short. A simple "Good morning" or "Good evening", should be sufficient enough to maintain a polite and cordial relationship.
4) File a Complaint - in the event that none of the above works, your only recourse may be to file a complaint according to the protocols of your workplace. This can especially hold true for those negative individuals who are toxic, controlling and combative. Doing so can help prevent this person from creating any more toxicity while also making the workplace less dreadful.
Overall, there are many things that can be done to deal with negative people at work. As mentioned, they can range the gamut of ignoring the person to complaining to your boss. Factors, like work culture, size of the workforce, office layout, your personality type, etc. all play a role in how you should approach this negative situation. Ultimately, however, it should be addressed so that you do not find yourself suffering because of someone else.
Would you like to share techniques that have worked for you? Please do so below.
In a previous blog post, I discussed why some individuals avoid confrontation. That post sparked a lot of feedback which caused me to address another issue many people have - caring what other people think about them. The need to be accepted or receive approval, on a personal level, is one that almost every individual grapples with. And, while it is something that is common, it is important to understand how it can impede your well-being and in some cases your life.
Depletes Your Self-Confidence
Seeking and relying solely on feedback from other individuals regarding a decision you want to make can have a impact on how confident you feel about your decision-making capabilities. If feedback received is repeatedly contrary to the one you initially believed was right, it could result in you having a higher level of self-doubt and uncertainty.
Impedes Your Values
The need to be accepted is something that can ultimately affect a person's values, especially if they are seeking acceptance from individuals who do not appreciate the person's beliefs. The need for acceptance can, in some cases, override what an individual believes in and may cause the person to resent themselves later on.
Affects Your Passion and Creativity
Lack of self-confidence combined with the need to be accepted can affect a individual's ability to "think outside of the box" and allow their creative "juices to flow." Someone who is always seeking the approval of others may easily be talked out of an idea they have or goal they wish to pursue.
So, what can you do avoid/fix such issues? First, start building your self-confidence. Spend some time each day reminding yourself of all the wonderful and important qualities you have as a person. Making a list of such qualities can help the process.
Second, spend more time with people who accept you as you are. In other words, you shouldn't have to change/curtail who you are just to "fit in" with the crowd. With technological advances like social media, it is easy to find like-minded individuals who can help support who are and ultimately help build your self-confidence.
Last, but not least, be realistic! Understand that not everyone on this earth will like you. Some will be jealous, some will misunderstand you, and some will straight out dislike you. It shouldn't be your mission to figure out why or to try to make amends. Whatever the issue may be, it is important to remind yourself it is their issue and it is for them to resolve if they so desire.
Do you have any other suggestions you would like to share about how someone can minimize how much they care about what other people think? Please share them below and also feel free to share your personal story of how you overcame this common problem.
During my recent research into Panic disorders, I came across an eye-opening statistic by the National Institute of Mental Health. It stated, “Panic disorder affects about 6 million American adults and is twice as common in women as men.” It further went on to explain how panic attacks, a precursor to panic disorders, can begin to appear in late adolescence and early adulthood. As a result, I composed this blog post to answer some basic questions related to panic attacks, especially when someone should consider getting medical or mental health treatment.
What is a Panic Attack?
According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) a panic attack is characterized by the abrupt presence of various symptoms which tend to build within a short time frame. A sense of imminent danger or impending doom, along with an urge to escape, can also be characteristic of a panic attack.
How Do I Know if I’m Having a Panic Attack?
Symptoms of a panic attack can cause somatic and/or cognitive reactions. Somatic reactions are generally physical symptoms that usually suggest a medical condition exists. Symptoms like palpitations, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, nausea, chest pain, dizziness, etc. are a few examples of the symptoms an individual can experience while having a panic attack.
Cognitive reactions affect the way a person thinks. For example, an individual experiencing a panic attack will often report feeling like they are losing control, a fear of dying or a belief that something disastrous will happen. These reactions are typical of a panic attack especially when they occur in the absence of real danger.
When Should I Seek Treatment?
For some individuals, they may only experience a panic attack once. If, however, you notice you are having recurrent episodes of a panic attack and/or feelings of anxiety, you should definitely begin by contacting your physician. A medical evaluation can inform you whether there is a medical explanation for the symptoms you are experiencing.
Should your physician report no medical explanation, consulting with a mental health provider should then be considered. A mental health provider like a psychologist, social worker, counselor, etc., can help you identify what may be triggering the attacks and/or whether you have some unresolved or repressed issues that need to be addressed.
Overall, if you have experienced a couple of panic attacks in a relatively short time period, you should consult with your primary care physician and/or mental health care professional. Doing so may help prevent the attacks from turning into a disorder, which can affect your social and/or physical ability to function.
Do you have any thoughts or questions about panic attacks? Please post them below.
December is a time of year that many individuals look forward to because of the holidays. Whether it is celebrating traditions, being around family and friends, or shorter work weeks - for the most part people enjoy this month. And while for many, this time of season is considered festive, fun and cheerful for others it can also be anxiety-provoking, depressing and emotionally exhausting.
Feelings of Anxiety - Holidays often equate to engaging in family-oriented gatherings. Factors like family dynamics can result in increased anxiety for some individuals. Worrying about mom's approval of a new boyfriend/girlfriend, wondering whether dad will continue to express his disappointment in your career choice, or stressing about your sibling(s) willingness to understand how much help you really need with caring for your parents, are a few examples of situations that can provoke anxiety thereby causing a person to dread the holiday season.
Feelings of Depression - This time of year can also be depressing for individuals who lack familial support, are not involved in a significant relationship or are going through a life-hardship that prevents them from celebrating the season as they normally would. And while they may choose to not celebrate, commercial advertisements and/or innocent questions like, "What are you doing for the holiday?" or "Have you finished shopping yet?" etc., can serve as a reminder of what they don't have thus causing a negative association with the holiday.
Feeling Emotionally Exhausted - Last but not least, emotional exhaustion is a common feeling many individuals experience during this time of year. Sometimes the mere thought of all the planning, traveling and socializing a person will have to do to prepare is enough to bring about a cloud of gloom. In other cases, memory of last year's disorder, dysfunction or drama can serve as a blockade to feeling cheerful about the holiday.
With all of that said, it is important to be aware of your feelings during this time of year and to not let it get the best of you and your ability to enjoy it or to function. Talking with friends and family you trust and/or with a therapist about your feelings can help you get to the bottom of what you are experiencing, learn ways to resolve it and hopefully make next year's holiday season a more cheerful one.
Do you tend to experience any of the above when the holiday season approaches? If so, how do you deal with it? Please share your thoughts below.
For many individuals, the ability to verbally communicate something they find upsetting can be challenging, especially when emotions get in the way. Defined by the Oxford Dictionary as a natural instinctive state of mind that results from one's mood, circumstances or relationships with others, emotions may lead to an inability to calmly, rationally and effectively communicate. Understanding why your emotions may be blocking you from effective communication is often the first step towards improving relationships. Below are a few common reasons individuals may experience difficulty in verbally communicating their thoughts...
1) Your “Guard” Is Up – for individuals who have experienced hurt, it is common for him/her to want to protect their sense of vulnerability. Having a protective layer a.k.a a "guard" may help do just that. Whether the "guard" comes in the form of an attitude or an approach towards dealing with others, the main goal is for it to shield the person from emotional pain. Therefore, instead of verbally communicating and exposing one's thoughts and feelings, an individual may instead express his/her discontent by engaging in a negative interaction. Understanding whether or not you are trying to protect yourself and knowing why you are doing so can help you identify what can trigger your negative reaction and what you can do to improve your communication style.
2) You've Only Learned One Way to Communicate – it’s not uncommon to come across individuals who believe the only way they can get their point across is by being negative. For example, some individuals will speak in a harsh tone, use demeaning language or even scream, believing that is the only way they will be "heard." For others, the thought of expressing their feelings is something they will not engage in for a variety of reasons, including if their cultural upbringing views it as being disrespectful Education and reassurance about the various ways thoughts and feelings can be communicated in a respectful manner can help to address this issue.
3) You are Being Ignored or Disregarded – there is no doubt that upon learning how to communicate effectively, one's emotions can still get the better of the situation especially if he/she feels their concerns are not being validated or addressed. Being ignored, belittled, or disregarded is something that can send almost anyone into a world of frustration. So, what should someone do in this situation? Figure out a way NOT to explode. Whether you take a break from the conversation, count to ten or express your belief of being disregarded - you essentially want to do something that will prevent your negative reactions from surfacing. Of course, this is easier said than done.
Overall, most people will come across a situation where they have to communicate the frustration they are experiencing because of another person. The ability to communicate effectively relies on various factors but knowing who you are, how you function and what triggers your negative reactions can greatly help you better control your emotions so they don't take over.
What techniques do you find helpful in controlling your emotions? Please share them below.
Depression is a term many individuals use to describe feelings of sadness, gloom and/or pessimistic thinking. Clinically speaking, depression refers to a type of mood disorder that impedes on a person's ability to function in various aspects of his/her life for a significant amount of time.
Due to the impact depression can have on someone's well-being, including those around them, it is important to be aware of some of the common symptoms associated with the disorder and what to do about them. Some of the most common symptoms include:
While the above symptoms vary according to the severity of the depression, it is important to not disregard what you or someone you know is feeling. Depression, if not taken care of early enough, can serve as a blockade to getting help. As a result, many individuals who are depressed often need friends and/or family to intervene and help them get assistance.
The first step in getting help is to consult with a medical professional to rule out any medical causes for the depression. Upon being evaluated by your physician, he/she may recommend seeking counseling either with a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professionals to identify any emotional/psychological causes for the problem. Depending on what is causing the depression, generally a combination of medical and psychological care is helpful.
Do you have any thoughts or questions you would like to share? Please do so below.