As part of our human experience, there will be times in our lives when we are put in the caregiver role. People we love will struggle with addiction, health problems, mental health issues, aging, reckless choices, or their own trauma. It is easy to be put in the caregiver role when those we love need support. Many times, we believe we can ‘fix’ them - keep them safe or make them happy. Eventually, we may notice the relationships we have with ourselves and with those around us suffer. When our ‘good intentions’ keep us in the caregiver role too long, our actions may be making things worse. Problems are not ‘fixed’. Resentment, loneliness, insecurity, anger, frustration, low self-esteem, and blame show up.
You may find yourself constantly in the giving role, trying desperately to control things but feeling defeated. You may even feel like you’ve lost yourself: You know everyone else’s needs but not your own.
There is hope. It is possible to reclaim your life and help those around you. You can repair relationships and feel fulfilled. You can find peace. Healing these wounds is possible with these 6 steps:
Recognize what is going on. Understanding how your actions may be negatively affecting you is the first step. Learn about common traits and behaviors that harm healthy relationships, healthy choices, and positive self-esteem. These negative traits impact both you and those you are caring for.
Get to the root of the problem. Are there reasons you gravitate towards fixing and controlling others? Maybe you have learned unhealthy patterns in your past that kept you safe, loved, and valued. Or maybe your choices are from unfair expectations placed upon you by others.
Identifying your needs and values. Focus on what makes you the best version of yourself. This requires some time and self-reflection. Once you identify your core strengths and principles, concentrate on choices based on what is most important to you.
Recognizing appropriate responsibility. A fundamental reality of life is that each person gets to be in charge and oversee their own basic needs. Preventing this or doing things for others that they should be doing for themselves damages self-esteem, inner strength, and the ability to self-regulate. Accepting the developmental stages and capabilities of those you are caring for is the starting point. Then, understanding what they can and can’t do for themselves helps you see where you can be most effective. Mutual respect is vital for all mature relationships.
Create healthy boundaries. Setting boundaries is simply teaching other people how to treat you. First you need to identify how you’d like to be treated, clearly communicating your needs and then kindly and clearly enforcing your new boundaries. If you’ve never done this before, others may be confused by this new dynamic. Assertive and clear communication enables mutual respect and ensures you will not feel taken advantage of.
Make healthy connections. Finally, it is time to start building healthy relationships with others. You can let go or detach from toxic relationships. You can nurture relationships that bring you joy. Doing this requires communicating effectively and learning to trust yourself instead of relying on others for validation or support.
Have hope. Healing is possible. If you need support, reach out. Sovegna offers individual and group support for caregivers and the people they care for. Please join me for a 6-week group beginning April 4th called “Healthy Relationships with Self and Others: Finding yourself again after caring for someone you love.” For more information click here or call (385) 429-9808. Space is limited - reserve your spot now.