I remember speaking with a woman who had been caring for her mother for many years. After a multi-year fight with an illness her mother had passed. My friend felt so out of control during the end of life process that she had no plans for the funeral services. When the day came she cracked open the yellow pages and looked for a place to bury her Mom.
Caring for a loved one is staggeringly challenging. Often you feel more exhausted and depleted than any other time in your life. It strikes you in your core.
You wonder who you are. You question how much you can do. You question how much more of this you can take.
When my grandfather was still alive but dying from cancer I remember one overwhelming feeling: GUILT. I felt deeply guilty for not wanting to be around him when he was sick. I felt paralyzed and useless because I didn’t know how to act.
After a long visit I often felt exhausted. I’m ashamed to say it but I often felt like not wanting to go back.
However I returned often. I visited him many times him during the different stages of his illness. It wasn’t easy but it was deeply meaningful. The emotions of angst, pain, loss, fear, confusion and many more…they were all still there. But I stayed present and with him because I loved him.
It is possible to feel deep pain and to love someone at the same time.
The result of the courage to stay was profound.
We cooked bread together. We wrote letters. We ate together. We shared stories (he of the war, me of college). We talked about Peter Drucker and our many business heroes. We laughed. We smiled together.
I have had similar experiences with almost all the meaningful relationships of my life. A life of CONNECTION and PEACE often requires sitting in DISCOMFORT and PAIN.
The results have been dozens of deep relationships of trust and care. It is literally the most meaningful part of my life. To get there however I needed to learn some critical steps of how to deal with my own emotions and needs. Oddly, I needed to learn to PUT MYSELF FIRST. Then I could help others.
I want to share with you some of the strategies that I used that have changed my own life. I want to share with you the FIVE PROVEN WAYS to get back CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE in 30 MINUTES or less.
#1: Share With Someone
One of the most challenging parts of being a caregiver is caring for yourself. All of us who love deeply seem also to love too freely. We trade our own sanity for the care of a loved one.
There is a better balance. The first turning point for me was being honest with a dear friend about how I was doing. I opened up my heart and shared vulnerably.
At first I did this out of pain. I sought to relieve my own angst and difficulty. But then I realized that the balance I achieved made me a more effective friend, family member and caregiver.
Learning to share my honest feelings with someone else was not easy. I remember the phone call when a friend first asked me for help years ago. It struck me. He was doing something I myself wished I could do.
The result was that a few years later when I was going through some deep challenges I had his example. So I picked up the phone and called him back. Now I needed his help.
Let me GIVE YOU THE PERMISSION RIGHT NOW. You can call a dear friend and tell them how you are doing.
Call the person in whom you have complete trust. Call the person who listens to you. Go where it’s warm.
And here is the special part. When they ask you, “How are you doing?” DON’T LIE. TELL THEM HOW YOU ARE ACTUALLY DOING. You will be welcomed with open arms. Cry if you need to. Get angry. Yell. Be honest and vulnerable.
The both of you will grow closer because of it. You will feel more in control and grounded.
#2: Ask For Support
We are all doers. As a result we think we can conquer mountains on our own. And then one day we realize almost as if out of nowhere ‘I feel vulnerable. Oh my God, I’m failing.’
One of the hardest transitions for caregivers is to ask for help for themselves. We are so willing to give it, but so unwilling to accept it.
I want to challenge you to do one thing. Following this approach will make asking for help easier. It will also have better results.
Next time someone says as they leave you at lunch or are about to hang up the phone after a conversation, ‘Great to talk to you, let me know if there is anything I can do’ …
Say, “Yes, you can do something.”
And then HERE IS THE KEY, tell them a SPECIFIC THING THEY CAN DO FOR YOU. Maybe they can call you later in the week to check in. Maybe they can come watch your Mom to give you an hour off on a Saturday.
Anything really. They WANT to help you. They said so to you with their own words. If you tell them specifically how they can help you it will strengthen your relationship. You will become closer because of it. I guarantee it.
This was a profoundly meaningful change in my life. Asking people for help in specific parts of my life was literally what built strong relationships with people. We were in it together. They felt that they were directly contributing to my life and happiness. And soon, I was able to return the favor to them. We both grew immensely because of it. I felt empowered and enriched.
#3: Write A Gratitude List
One of the strongest fears I hear from caregivers is the fear of losing a loved one too early. The risks feel immediate and treacherous. Maybe Dad will fall without anyone in the house. Maybe Mom may pass in the evening while I dose off in the chair.k
We feel the panic of not being enough. We feel the panic of failing our loved ones.
What’s underneath this fear is a tunnel vision. The world feels incredibly small. Breathing is hard. Everything feels like an emergency.
GRATITUDE can have MASSIVE RESULTS to reverse this pain.
And here’s the secret. Here’s why gratitude can have an impact within a second.
Gratitude WIDENS THE LENS.
Gratitude pulls you out of your immediate experience and gives you context.
Here is a SIMPLE and IMMEDIATE way to take advantage of gratitude. Right now take out a pen and paper. Write the numbers 1 through 5.
Write down five things you are grateful for. If you want to BRING BACK CONTROL to your life even further DEFINE IN TWO SENTENCES HOW YOUR LIFE IS BETTER. Get specific. Talk about how it makes you feel. List the ways you feel connected. List new things you have achieved.
For example, “I am grateful for my son, because when I see him in the morning my entire body lights up with joy.”
I have been doing this consistently for years. This one practice has changed everything.
#4 Tell Someone You Love Them With Your Eyes
One of the things I am most guilty of is spending large amounts of time with people in my life and not telling them enough that THEY ARE MEANINGFUL TO ME.
One year for Christmas I got everyone in my office a personalized book. And then on top of that I wrote each of them a hand written personalized note. It took me two weeks to get everything together.
And it was worth every single minute.
The most striking result was a man I worked with who was a bit of a challenge. He was incredibly smart and effective but he also had a deep temper.
I was standing in his office when he opened the gift and read my card. He looked up at me with tears welling in his eyes said:
“This is incredible. It’s one of the most meaningful things anyone has ever done for me. I don’t know what to say.”
Another person who worked for me burst into tears on the spot.
Part of their reaction was that I struggle to connect with people sometimes. I can be brusque, curt, and even angry at times. The gift was a change.
But the larger reason for tears was how infrequently people are told they are meaningful. When someone takes the time to say those words the action can be overpowering.
The remarkable thing is that telling someone that they are meaningful or that you love them IMPACTS BOTH PEOPLE. The giver and the receiver come away enriched.
Here’s the secret to gaining control of your own life through this step. LOOK THEM IN THE EYES FOR SEVERAL SECONDS WHEN YOU SAY IT.
Don’t look down. Mean it. Show them with your eyes that you mean it.
The two of you will be deeply connected as a result.
#5 Change Your Story
We all live the stories that we tell ourselves. We become what we think we are. For years I felt that I had little to add. There were a few things I was talented at, but on the whole my mind said I was a limited person.
The result was that I felt that way. I felt insufficient. I felt insecure. I refrained from going after new things.
But when I realized that the most important voice for my life was the one inside my own head I began to change that voice. I began to show the voice through action what I could do differently.
I BEGAN TO CHANGE MY STORY.
But here’s the catch. I needed to do the four proceeding steps before this final one.
I needed to share.
I needed help.
I needed gratitude.
I needed to give and receive love.
Then I could grow. Then my story began to change. I became a different more fulfilled, more enriched, constantly growing, constantly helping, constantly striving person.
But I did it all because I choose to.
Take two minutes now and add in the comments 2 actions you can take today to get back control of your life.
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February 13, 2015
By: JP Adams