Have you heard of the Buddhist teaching “Life is Suffering?” This is a hard reality to face in life, that suffering is part of it. You are always going to have to deal with problems. As a family caregiver, there may be daily challenges you are faced with and problem that need to be solved..The problems can often be associated to the root cause of losing your family member to illness and loss of control of the situation. Your spouse who has Alzheimer’s can no longer remember what he or she had for breakfast no matter how many times you remind him or her. There are also problems due to lack of resources from a swamped healthcare system or loss of support including family members who do not see the seriousness of your situation.. Life can become so overwhelming, energy-zapping and anger provoking – all because of problems, problems and more problems. Now that I have totally overwhelmed you, allow me to offer some relief.
Following is the relief:
You are more than your problems and you can rise above them.
The question is HOW? Acknowledge, Assess, Assist…
STEP 1: Ask yourself “Do I want to assist myself’”?
The reason I start with this question is that you may be walking around with thoughts like “Nothing is going to help”, “I cannot see a way out”. These thoughts can sabotage your attempt to help yourself. In other words you are not going to take the first step when you have this huge barrier in the form of thought telling you that nothing will help.Assess if this is happening for you. If you acknowledge that your thoughts may . be sabotaging, that is a good thing and a step towards not letting them sabotage anymore. When ready, move on to step 2 as prepared to assist yourself.
STEP 2: Acknowledge the reality that you cannot escape the challenges and problems in life….they are part of life.
You may be saying to yourself. “Why do I have so many problems and others don’t?”
It may appear that others do not have problems because they are not your problems.
Their problems are their problems. On the same note, your problems look bigger because your problems are yours and you are the one that has to live with them and deal with them..
STEP 3: Be prepared to assess and work out the problems. Some take longer than others and some are ongoing. Escaping most often does not make the problem go away. Having said that some go away on their own, like a boo boo on a child’s knee – but we still need to nurture it. The key is in the acknowledgement and assessment of the problems. For instance in my book, Keeping It Together, Mary, a family caregiver relayed how she found a
solution to getting money from the bank for her mother who has dementia. Instead of it being the production it was, Mary took the tension out of banking, creating “Verbal Banking” at the machine.
STEP 4 – Shut the door.: Acknowledge, Assess, and Assist yourself by preventing yourself from getting consumed with your problems. This can really be more of a challenge if you are living with the challenges in situations such as becoming a caregiver for a spouse you have been married to for 50 years and has developed Parkinson’s disease. When you get consumed with the problems, you are not too far off from identifying, being the problems with nothing outside the problems existing. You may already be in the thick of being the problems. You may have quit your full time job to take care of your mother who has MS. Then as the demands got higher and your energy lower, you may have given up the weekly social bridge night. The more you have given up, the more immersed you have become in the caregiving – losing your “self” in the process. If you can relate, shut the door and start on the path towards finding your “self”.
STEP 5 – Draw the line: To prevent yourself from becoming consumed or if you have assessed and acknowledged that you are already consumed with your problems, assist yourself by acknowledging that you are more than your problems. Create the boundary between you and your problems so your problems do not define you.
If you are reading this and do not know where to start drawing the line between you and your problems, ask yourself “What will assist me the most in this moment?” The answer may be getting some sleep, signing up for an exercise class, arranging a couple of hours out with a friend, or you can think up on your own what would be helpful.
Do the best you can with the resources you have to work out or work with your problems so you are able to live life to the fullest…..in the moment. Remember, since life includes suffering, living life to the fullest in the moment does not mean to always be happy. It means to go with what the moment brings without getting swept into a big wave of woes. Assist yourself by not allowing your problems to take over and define who you are.