Today, we’re going to talk about how you can care for others while also taking care of yourself. Here’s what we mean.
Think about a time when a friend of yours was struggling. How did you respond in that situation? Now, think about a time when YOU were struggling. How did you respond in that situation… to yourself? There was likely a difference. We tend to be much more compassionate with our friends while being tougher on ourselves. How can we treat ourselves with that same gentleness and care?
In your role as a caregiver, when we put others first, we can forget to look after ourselves. The way to be a resilient caregiver is with self-compassion… treating yourself the same way you would treat a friend.
Now, what prevents us from self-compassion is the harsh critic whispering in our head. It says things like …
“You’ll never be able to do this” or
“You always mess this up.”
With self-compassion, you replace those mental judgments with thoughts a friend would comfort you with. Like …
“I see you’re doing your best.”
“The people you care for are in good hands with you.”
Or… “You’re a strong person for dealing with this for so long.”
Another way to practice self-compassion is with journaling. It doesn’t have to be formal. You can even just write in your phone. However you do it, use the three parts of self-compassion to process what you’re experiencing as a caregiver.
Write kind, understanding words of comfort to yourself:
“It’s okay. You made a mistake. But it wasn’t the end of the world.”
2) Common Humanity
Write how the things you’re going through are connected to the larger human experience:
“Everyone makes mistakes. It’s how we learn.”
Write about how you feel (embarrassed, sad, ashamed, or frightened) in a non-judgmental way:
“I got angry, overreacted, and was embarrassed afterwards.”
If you change the tone of your inner voice and journal regularly, self-compassion will make you more resilient and able to bounce back from life’s challenges.
And that’s important. Because the opportunity to be a caregiver may be one of the most fulfilling things you ever do.
But…to KEEP doing it, it’s important to be intentional about caring for yourself in the process.
People who have grit practice more than others. However, they don’t just do the same thing over and over again. Instead, they practice the areas they’re weak in. This can often be painful and hard. After all, doing something that you’re not good at can be tiring.
You can build grit by adopting a habit of daily practice, learning as you go and, and most importantly, moving through the challenging parts.
Sometimes it can even help to say out loud, “This is so frustrating because I’m challenging myself.”
'O' Stands for Outcome.
What is the specific outcome you want? This is more than the goal itself. IT’S WHAT YOU HOPE THAT GOAL GETS YOU. For example, a goal to take your medication everyday as prescribed could result in an outcome of having more freedom and less symptoms that get in the way.
A common mistake when setting a goal is to only think about how great life will be after accomplishing it without considering what is currently holding us back.
A helpful skill is to think of the outcome you want and create a plan that will get you through any challenges that stand in your way.
‘A’ Stands for Achievable.
Think about the skills or abilities that are needed to achieve your goal. How can you make it practical and within reach? For example, reading one book per month is probably achievable. Becoming a professional NBA player may not be... because you may not have the ability or skill to achieve that goal.
You could set a goal to practice basketball one hour per day, though!
How will you know your plan is working? What are the things you (or others) could see that will let you know you are closer to achieving your goal?
Think of the way your smartphone tracks your steps and how you can compare the steps you took today to yesterday’s. You can compare week to week, or even month to month. Is it something within your control? Is it realistic? What is the time frame you are wanting to achieve this goal in?
Rather than just thinking “I want to be healthy,” think of how you can frame it in a way that is time bound and within your control. For example, “Starting on Monday, after work, I will begin exercising 20 minutes a day, three times per week.”
A specific question you can ask to determine if your goals are achievable is to fill in the blank: I will know my plan is working if “blank.” What are the specific indicators that show you, and others, that you are closer to reaching your goal?
‘L’ Stands for Link.
Think again about the goal you want to achieve. Now think of something you really like to do that you could bundle with that goal. Perhaps it’s scrolling through social media posts, playing a game on your phone, or watching Netflix. Linking steps toward your goal with something you like is a way of doing what you want to do AND what you should be doing to achieve a specific goal.
The trick is that you must do the two things together. One shouldn’t happen without the other. Unlike doing something fun as a reward AFTER completing a task you’re not so fond of, this behavioral practice ties together something you like with completing necessary tasks.
So how does it work? If your goal is to spend an hour a day organizing and doing household chores so your weekends can be more relaxing.
You might bundle a not so fun task like laundry with watching your favorite Netflix show. Or maybe you’re trying to finish a paper and you decide to bundle this not so fun task with...a fancy coffee drink.
But there’s one important catch. In order to stick to the plan and make this work, you have to have some self-control. If you reward yourself without doing what you should be doing, such as watching Netflix without doing laundry, the system will begin to fall apart.
‘S’ Stands for Steps.
Larger goals can be broken down into smaller goals.
Small steps together equal a giant leap. The trick is to break goals down into the smallest, most manageable steps you can.
Think about someone who wants to go on a long run but is out of shape. While it may be tempting to want to start on the run and simply see how far you can go, it can be more helpful to start small and track your progress.
Perhaps start by getting running shoes. Another step may be running around the block after dinner. Then you might build up to running around the block two times the next day and three times the next. This allows you to check off each goal along the way, which can keep you motivated. You can also reflect on where you’ve been by documenting your progress and sharing with friends or family.
So, to recap, here are the easy-to-remember skills in G.O.A.L.S.:
• Link, and
And using them is how to achieve the goals that matter to you.