If you've checked out my LinkedIn profile you'll know that I have a Masters Degree in Engineering Management, but what you probably don’t know is that also included a specialty in Crisis, Emergency, and Risk Management. The primary focus of the program was "Crisis Management" and more specifically, natural disasters, crisis communication and large scale issue facilitation and resolution.
Despite being extensively trained in the handling of disasters, including remaining calm in the wake of trauma, I'm pretty much useless with anything that involves blood, throw up, and people in significant pain. To demonstrate this point, I will share a story from a few years ago when my husband and I were outside in the backyard moving patio furniture. My husband was making trips back and forth from the shed to the patio carrying chairs and loungers when all of a sudden he missed a step, twisted his ankle, and fell to the ground in pain. I immediately ran over to help, but as soon as I saw the pain written across his face, I promptly passed out! I was completely useless and he ended up hobbling around taking care of me when in reality, I should've been taking care of him. So what does this have to do with self-care?
This week my mother had hip replacement surgery. Between COVID and an extremely noisy hospital roommate, she fought very hard to be released from the hospital on the same day as her surgery. In the days immediately following her procedure she was totally incapacitated and obviously could not offer her usual help with running the household and corralling the kids. As well as this, she herself needed a great deal of TLC, including assistance with bathing, cooking, and pain management; I was basically a full-time caregiver.
While this wasn't an easy situation for either of us, including days where I had to adjust my own work schedule, there was something so rewarding about being able to help her in this way. My Mom is incredibly independent having lived alone for almost twenty years and is always the first to offer help and put her own plans on hold for the sake of others. My Mom is the last one to ask for assistance with anything, so being able to be there for her this week has really taught me that the benefit of caregiving don’t just apply to the recipient, but also to those who provide the care.
According to the National Opinion Research Center, 8 out of 10 people reported their time spent caregiving as a positive experience. From gaining a greater sense of purpose, to the acquisition of new life skills, it’s clear the benefits of caring for others can almost certainly be considered a form of self-care. We all have a desire to feel needed and the role of caregiver does that by allowing us to refocus on the more important things in life such as our interpersonal relationships.
The act of caring for people helps us to create deeper bonds as we learn to lean on one another for emotional and physical support. While the task of caregiver presents many challenges, it’s clear that with the right attitude, the benefits significantly outweigh the negatives. So, the next time you start thinking about all the stressful aspects of being a caregiver, try balancing this out by focusing your attention on all the amazing things you gain from the experience too.