Anyone who takes care of others knows their work is never done. You're always doing double duty. You may be hurting, tired, confused, and emotionally raw while you are helping someone else learn, heal, grow, and feel comforted.
Parents, teachers, and healthcare workers are caregivers, but others who don't have a title also always help others: The neighbor who always checks in, the coach who helps the struggling player, the worker who is always there to fill in where needed. The "helpers" are the glue that hold us together.
Helpers and caregivers suffer trauma on several fronts. They often experience the pain and suffering of those they care for, and many often are so empathetic that they can feel and can even carry other's pains and burdens.
Caregivers can also have their own hurts to heal. Early traumatic childhood experiences, also known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) include abuse, neglect, and growing up with family dysfunction. These experiences can make us feel like we are always carrying a weight. Sometimes we become caregivers out of a deep desire to heal ourselves but don't know how, so we rush in to help others.
Caregivers who are the most powerful are the ones who have first filled up their cup and are able to offer others their overflow.
How do we create the emotional "overflow"?
This video is a teaching tool to help show how a caregiver's own healing can lead to building resilience for herself so she can help her child, those around her, and herself.
After watching this video you might ask yourself the following questions:
Who was there for me growing up?
Who can I count on now to support me?
What is my motivation to help others?
What do I gain from being a caregiver?
It's interesting to note that therapists often seek counseling for themselves to balance their needs the feelings they go through with their clients. Being with people who need us can be draining, it can cause resentment, it can feel painful or overly burdensome. This feeling is called "caregiver burn out". If you are experiencing these feelings you are not alone! Great helpers frequently reach a tipping point where they can't take in any more and they can't give out any more. When you feel this way it is a sign that you need to fill your own cup.
As the video shows, BBG's 6 Building Blocks for Resilience can help.
Protection: Create a safe place for yourself where you can feel protected from the needs of others.
Relationship: Cultivate relationships where you are cared for too.
Positive Coping Skills: Collapsing is not a coping skill! Find things that truly nurture you, refuel, and fill you. Remember, not all coping skills are relaxing. They can be invigorating, fresh experiences that simply take you out of yourself and your situation.
Can-do: Get back to your hobbies. Do what you love. Lose yourself in a past time that makes you feel great about yourself and sends you a powerful reminder that you have talents and gifts that are yours alone.
Belonging: You don't have to join a group to belong. Maybe you don't have time to join group therapy or go to church or hang out with your extended family. These are places where you belong, but feeling part of a group like the your union, or the facebook group for people who love cats, or the group that listens to the Grateful Dead can also help you feel connected and valued.
Storytelling: It is vital that you have an outlet to talk about witnessing other people's pain, or how hard it is to help others to get through a difficult time, or frustrations of helping a child learn and develop. Your work is important and your feelings need to be expressed. Find a safe place where you can speak about how you are handling the challenges of witnessing other's travails.
Do these things for yourself, but also for those you care about.
Remember: You cannot fill another's vessel if your own is empty.
Thank you for all you do.