The media puts a lot of attention on the treatment of illnesses, but very little on those who do a lot of the treating — the healthy spouses (and other family members, like adult children and siblings) who take care of their sick loved ones.
In my practice, it's not uncommon for me to see caregiver-spouses who literally had to become sick themselves to avoid burning out.
Well, you don't have to get to the point where your body takes over to protect you from yourself. By following the four rules below, you can stay healthy and happy while taking loving care of your seriously ill loved one.
Notice that when a flight attendant gives her instructions, she makes it clear that you need to put your oxygen mask on first — before you help your child! There's a good reason for this. It works better. Otherwise, you'll pass out and neither of you will have oxygen.
It works the same way in day-to-day life.
We always think it's better to be self-sacrificing and to constantly give of ourselves, even when it feels bad to do so. In fact, we often feel guilty when we don't put others' needs ahead of our own.
It's time for you to let go of this way of thinking. If you are coming from a reasonably centered place — loving, positive, concerned — your feelings will take into account the needs of both the ill person and your own.
And if you don't feel good when doing something, yet you still do it, it isn't always true that you're being a saint.
Sometimes you're being a fool. Why? Because that can be the path of burnout and getting sick yourself, which only adds to the burden of the very person you're taking care of.
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