In Tri Delta’s new series, “3 For You,” we’re covering the best tips from experts as we navigate the situation around COVID-19. Tri Delta alumna Kristi Horner, Denison, provides advice to caregivers on how to prevent burnout when caring for a loved one. Read her three tips below, or listen to the podcast.
May is Mental Health Month, and Tri Delta continues to have important discussions about mental health with our members through conversations on our podcast, as well as through our Behind Happy Faces program for our collegiate chapters. We know it’s vital that we treat our mental health with the same care as our physical health. Kristi Horner is the Founder and Executive Director of Courage to Caregivers, a nonprofit with the mission to provide hope, support and courage to the caregivers and loved ones of those living with mental illness. She shares her advice on care for caregivers to prevent burnout and what she refers to as “compassion fatigue.”
Tip #1 Understand Your Stress
What brings stress is different for everyone. A little bit of stress is actually healthy. Identify what causes you stress, and measure it over time to see when it changes, how it affects you and where you feel it in your body. This allows you to notice when compassion fatigue is setting in. Being aware over time of what causes you stress helps you to take action and step in before it gets worse.
The next step is to identify your go-to healthy coping techniques for your stress. Find out what works for you and what doesn’t. Keep a list handy, so you don’t forget in that moment. Maybe it starts with deep breathing, meditation, or it could be exercise, taking a walk, spending time in nature, or connecting with your friends and family.
Tip #2 Reframe to Reduce Stress
Reframing is a wonderful technique you can do using the 5 Cs: I can’t change it, I can’t control it, I didn’t cause it, I can’t cure it, but I can COPE with it. Reframing is a way of changing your worldview to create thoughts, beliefs and perceptions that cause less stress. For example, thinking “My loved one is behaving in a certain way just to annoy me” can be reframed to, “He/she isn’t able to make a better choice at this time.” Or perhaps instead of saying, “I am failing at (work/parenting/volunteering) and can’t get anything done stuck at home,” we could reframe by saying, “My worthiness isn’t tied to my productivity during shelter at home.” Reframing helps you maintain a hope-filled and positive outlook.
Tip #3 Have Healthy Boundaries
Setting boundaries is hard—especially now. Boundaries can be physical, emotional or intellectual. Boundaries can be between you and other people, or you and “work” or even the thoughts you allow into your mind. Healthy boundaries are a way of balancing your needs and the needs of others; heathy boundaries are empowering, whereas unhealthy boundaries are unempowering. It’s important to remember we are not responsible for others’ happiness.
How do we do this? Be sure to make “me time.” It might be easier than ever to work 24/7 or feel like you’re not being productive enough, but you need to take time for yourself. One thing you can do is create your sanctuary—where is your quiet space to be alone? We have some people right now taking calls in their cars because it’s their only place to be alone.
Additionally, communication and setting realistic expectations are key. This might be the time to learn to say no and to practice using ‘I’ language. Remember you’re never alone—there are so many people out there in the same boat, and we’re all here to help each other.