Mental Resilience is something that many people struggle with, if you know anyone who is struggling because they care for others, then you and they are not alone; caring for others whether professionally, voluntarily or at home is becoming part of most families.
The sandwich generation with children still at home and elderly parents still alive, puts so much added pressure on you and your relationships. Over time caregiving becomes more and more demanding and occupies more and more of your time. Many people are not prepared for the all-consuming emotional stress and demands this puts on you.
Unfortunately in today’s society caregiving is not rated as a prime occupation, something like the 60s stigma of “just a housewife,” nowadays most families do not have the luxury of having one parent stay at home and one as the provider. The cost of living and expectations of society mean that roles are not so clear cut as previously, but it is still fair to say that the majority of hands-on caregivers are female. It seems a role that is instinctively seen and assumed by females.
There are many more males in the top echelons of Consultant Physician than females and just to show this is not unique to the medical/healthcare field, in the top 500 companies on the Footsie, there are more Chief Executives called Dave, than there are women on the Boards. There is no easy answer to this, nor is there any magic wand for society; people are living longer, they are more mentally resilient for longer and want to be more independent in their older years.
This with the decline in numbers in nurses, doctors, healthcare assistants, surgeons, consultants, dentists and pharmacists along with the diminishing investment in the infrastructure of the medical field in general, is all causing a huge black hole for volunteers and home caregivers to fill, along with all their other life activities. It is no wonder that stress and burnout are at an all-time high, recently a study from Harvard Medical Centre showed that the medical/caregiving professions well over 70% of people studied said that they have or are suffering from traits of burnout.
Burnout or overloaded work-related stress are preventable and can be avoided, but most people live in denial for far too long and do not really care for themselves enough, feeling guilty about taking time for yourself is a major problem to solve, but logically, if you do not care for yourself, how can you care for others? If you are tired, short-tempered, or over-emotional it means you are on the path to burnout. Learning to say no, or taking regular breaks is seen to be weak, but in reality, it shows your strength and determination to be great at what you do, by being the best for yourself, in turn, means you can be the best for others.
I burnt out in work in 2005, I hit an emotional, psychological and physical barrier, walked out of my job, burnt my work clothes, moved both my elderly parents, my daughter and myself to another country, to run away (though I did not see it that way, at the time).
During the next 2 years, I started to heal in one way, but lost my mum just six months after the move, my husband and dad within ten days of each other in a further 14 months, then to top the lot, my dream house split in two (literally). All of this on top of my burnout, saw me on a long, painful road to recovery. One I am still having to work on, it is still much easier to isolate myself, rather than socialise.
Knowing the knowledge of self-care is not enough, putting it into practice is essential, prevention is so much better than recovery. You are worth the effort of taking care of yourself, it should not be a guilty pleasure, or something you think is self-indulgent.
Those around you need and want you, though you may not feel valued, take small steps to make time for you, to do what you want, then you can give your best to yourself and to others too.
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Be kind to yourself.
MA, BA Ed (Hons), DTM