Caring for the Caregiver: 3 Ways to Grow your Empathy
Even though we may be caregivers, as Stan Goldberg writes, we are not Mother Teresa. We are humans with imperfections, desires, guilt, and needs. In many cases, caregivers get so wrapped up in helping others that they forget to care for themselves.
In fact, up to 70% of caregivers live with clinically significant symptoms of depression.
Why is this?
Consider the Shel Silverstein novel, The Giving Tree. In it, a tree gives her branches, apples, and trunk to a boy until all that remains of her is a stump. Caregivers are like the tree: so eager to help that they ignore their own health.
So what can I do as a friend or family member?
In the upcoming posts, we will learn some ways to support a caregiver in your lifetoday. You will be doing both the caregiver and the person they are caring for a wonderful service.
Method 1: Grow your empathy
Empathy will be the best tool you will have when showing love for a caregiver, or anyone for that matter. Imagine being able to see what another person is seeing and feel what they are feeling. Empathy is essentially telepathy and strengthening it will give you that superpower! Here are some useful tips for strengthening empathy, from psychologist Ellen Hendriksen, PHD:
READ LITERARY FICTION -- connecting with complex characters in novels helps you connect with people in real life.
PRACTICE ACTIVE LISTENING -- this is harder than it seems. Practice by rephrasing what other people say without injecting your own opinions or judgments and try to remain as present as possible.
THE NEW 'GOLDEN RULE' -- try to treat others as they would like to be treated. You wouldn't give someone else a birthday present that you like and they don't. Imagine your actions like a gift you are giving someone.
"LET YOUR HEART BREAK" -- when you witness pain in another person, don't shy away from it. Instead, think, "that could have been me."
November is National Family Caregiver's month. In honor of that, and the incredible service that caregivers provide, we are featuring help on how to take care of yourself when you're a caregiver and how to help caregivers that you know. Check back soon for another method!
The Wellist Team