By Dr. Jamie Huysman, LCSW, CFT
Interpersonal relationships can be challenging at the best of times. Caregiving takes these relationships to another level, so it is important to be mindful of what we can, cannot, or should not do.
We all have limitations – physical, emotional, and mental. We may not always be aware of what they are until they can no longer be ignored. However, once realized they should be acknowledged, and any unnecessary burden should be addressed. It is not uncommon for circumstances to change, particularly in a long-term care situation. No one should ever marginalize the effects that not facing facts and ignoring our own needs can have on you or the one you care for.
While limitations can change, boundaries are more fixed by their very nature; they are lines set by an individual that should not be crossed. Healthy boundaries protect us. They define what we are willing to do and what we are not. They also determine how we allow others to treat us. Those of us who are prone to taking on the energy of others need to be aware of how that energy affects them and act accordingly.
It should be noted that there is a big difference between setting a boundary and building a wall. Creating a shield with intention is a good middle ground; stating an intention to do/take on only what you are able is the touchstone of self-care. To know when you’ve had enough at any one time is a healthy boundary. Honor that and disengage.
The power of “No.”
Many of us don’t want to disappoint people, so we take on way more responsibility than is realistic or healthy. I touched on this in my July 31st Caregiver TeleConnection session Take Your Oxygen First.
When we over-commit and over-promise we are apt to under-deliver which can overwhelm and also lead to anxiety, guilt, shame. There is no stigma involved in saying “No.” Granted, manipulators and control freaks may not be happy with your decision but stand firm and do not succumb to any attempted emotional blackmail.
Knowing your limitations, setting boundaries, and saying no are all important elements of our personal integrity, character, and wellbeing. Don’t sell yourself short.
Allowing yourself to create balance between work, family, friends, and caring is what makes up the quality of your life. Make it a wonderful one!
Dr. Jamie is a popular keynote speaker, media expert, and author. He co-authored the acclaimed “Take Your Oxygen First: Protecting Your Health & Happiness While Caring for a Loved One with Memory Loss.” Dr. Huysman writes for Caregiver SOS, Connections, JoanLunden.com, Huddol.com, and blogs on PsychologyToday.com.