For the personal piece on caregiving, I wanted to share some advice from a dear friend. My friend of many years—let’s call her Lily—is caregiver to a young son who is currently struggling with two different types of mental illness.
Lily has been my friend for many years and is a positive and healthy individual who understands self-care and emotional health. I asked her to come up with a list of advice for fellow caregivers—things that she has learned and found helpful in caring for her son over the years. This is what she said:
- It is okay to cry and laugh. Some days will be hard and you will need to sit in your living room at night once every one else is asleep and just have a good cry. But when you can, laugh. Laugh about things that are purely funny and laugh about things that are hard, but still humorous in weird ways. Watch funny movies and read funny books.
- Find support. Find at least one person that you can tell the good, bad and ugly to when it comes to caregiving—someone who will support you, help you and not judge you. If you cannot find someone like this, at the very least join a support group. You WILL NEED SUPPORT!
- Find time for you. I know it is hard, but try to do something for yourself a few times a week. Go for a run. Read a book. Meditate.
- Know your limits and warning signs. Don’t take on more than you can do. And know what your red flags are when it comes to self-care. For example, if I notice myself eating two desserts every day, oversleeping and/or procrastinating, I know I have reached my limit and REALLY need a break.
- Seek beauty. Someone recently told me that life is not about “highs and lows” or “hills and valleys.” Life is train tracks. On one rail you have the good and beauty in life while the other side holds pain and difficulty. The two are joined together and we experience both simultaneously throughout our lives. Even when life is hard there is beauty and hope to be found, we just cannot forget to look for it.
- Attend counseling. Check in with a trained mental health counselor from time-to-time to make sure you are implementing positive coping skills and engaging in good self-care. Counseling is a wonderful and safe environment in which to find support (see number 2) and share and process feelings.
I hope Lily’s advice is helpful to you. If you need to speak with an experienced mental health counselor about any issue, please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services in Orlando today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment.