What scares you most as a caregiver? The ailing health of your loved one? Not having time for yourself or your goals? Losing your connection with your children or other important people in your life because of the impact caregiving has on you? Not having the financial wherewithal to address the needs of your loved one or yourself? All of the above?
Fears can be inspiring or debilitating. They can leave confusion, frustration, and pain in their wake. They can make us fight for what we need or cause us to retreat and huddle on the couch streaming a favorite TV show. We can even alternate between the two—sometimes in the same day or even hour.
At times, they may take over our lives or live in our minds as an anxiety we just can’t shake. We might not even know that a fear is there. We may think we’re angry about a particular situation, but underlying that anger is a fear of what will happen to us or our loved ones if that situation doesn’t change.
Fear comes from a feeling of threat, and it pervades our existence in often unacknowledged ways. We might move to a particular neighborhood because of fear or we may avoid an alley at night because of fear. However, in our day-to-day existence, fear is spurring our behavior too. We may not leave our loved one home with another caregiver because of our fears that they won’t be properly cared for. Or perhaps our loved one has developed fears that they won’t be safe if we’re not there.
So how can you counteract these fears or at least address them in a healthy way when they crop up in your caregiving life?
1) Identify Your Fears
Sometimes the hardest step in managing your fears is simply acknowledging that they are there. Once a fear has been identified, you can deal with it, but if you aren’t aware that fear is behind your behavior, it can be almost impossible to solve the problem. So pull out a pad of paper or call up a friend and try to name your worries. Once fear is out in the open, it oftens scurries away, so shine a light on your fears and take a moment to really see them.
2) Question Your Fear
Ask yourself whether a fear is valid and consider how to address it if it is. For example, a fear of walking in a dark alley at night might be warranted, and it might be dealt with by walking on a well-lit street instead. Or a fear that another caregiver might not provide adequate care could be addressed by installing a cheap camera in your living room that you can monitor via your phone while you’re out. However, if the fear is that your loved one’s health may deteriorate, then it’s not likely a fixable fear. Their health may deteriorate, just as everyone’s health deteriorates as we age. There is only so much you can do in that case.
3) Find Some Help
Sometimes as caregivers, uncertainty and the accompanying fears that come with it can be overwhelming. We may need to share those fears with others to help them dissipate but we don’t want to overwhelm our friends and family with our concerns, which strangely enough may stem from another type of fear—a fear of becoming a burden, which may in itself overlay a fear that we could become unlovable. But fear shared is often fear released. So, search for ways to let those fears fly out. There are support groups both in person and online that can provide a safe outlet for your fears. Or perhaps a therapist could provide a way to vent or maybe you can create an exchange with a friend. Let them spend 15 minutes unburdening themselves, and then you get 15 minutes to spew out everything that’s bothering you. The relief of such exchanges can be immense, and it can feel satisfying to not only receive the relief yourself, but provide it for someone else.
So, let Halloween inspire you to walk outside and face those fears. You might just get a few treats as a result.
Thank you for reading, please share with a friend, and be well! —KK
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