When your relative or friend first needed help because of their pain, or other long-term condition, you helped them because they were your husband, wife, mother, father, sister, brother, cousin, or friend.
As the weeks turn into months and perhaps the person’s needs increase, you may find that you do more and more for them.
Maybe you are also juggling family commitments, work and a social life?
Perhaps without realising it, you have become a carer? Of course, this does not mean you have stopped being a lover, relative or friend.
Beginning to recognise your carer’s role can be a first step towards accepting, rather than fighting it. This is not easy – it can be hard to accept that your relationship has changed, even if only in subtle ways. However, as you become more accepting, you can switch some of your energy from battling with the role and yourself to looking after yourself and living well in your relationship.
Here are some ideas on how to do this:
1. Key messages
It can be hard to accept that your life is different now. However, if you can accept that things have changed, then it is easier to switch your focus and energy towards living well. Your day to day life will then be led by your plans and ideas of what is possible, not by your carer’s role.
- Acceptance is not about giving up or giving in. It is about living the best life possible despite what is going on.
- Acceptance means being willing to take small steps to move forward. It is about shifting your attention from what you cannot change to what you can change in your life.
- People who accept their carer’s role find that it has less impact on their day to day lives.
- Rather than struggling on your own, you can learn to seek help.
- Acceptance is an ongoing journey of change that takes time.
2. Focus on the things you can change
- Slowly adjusting how you do things can help. For example: - Noticing what you are doing, rather than thinking about the 20 things you have yet to do. This might be as small as noticing the textures and colours of clothes as you put them away. - Discussing with the person you love how you maintain intimacy in your relationship – perhaps ensuring you have some time alone, working out the best way to hug without their pain increasing and, where pertinent, exploring ways that work for you both to be sexually fulfilled
- Accepting and adapting to being a different person and noticing the things you still want to do and achieve. Then thinking what you might realistically be able to do about these without blocking and paying too much attention to the voice in your head that says you can’t.
- Thinking about and viewing yourself and life differently. You might ask yourself “why should I do this?” Life inevitably changes for us all as we get older, move house, change jobs and roles, make and lose friends, discover a new recipe we want to cook, buy a new (more complicated) washing machine. Mostly we try not to look at these things negatively, but rather meet them head on, do the best we can and embrace the change. Many carers face a lot of change; fighting it is exhausting. Embracing it can be heart-warming.
- Patiently and steadily shifting the focus towards what you really want to do each day. It is good to have a plan on what you are doing tomorrow, but not one that is set in stone; it needs to be flexible. Think of something small that you really want to do – perhaps having five minutes to sit in the garden or near an open window with a cup of tea by yourself. Maybe you could try and do this three days out of seven - just before preparing lunch or supper.
- Using techniques like mindful stretching or meditation – see Footstep 7
- Finding the best type of support and help – see Footstep 1
3. Think about opportunities
- Being a carer may give you an opportunity to look again at what life means to you.
- It can be about finding a new and hopeful meaning in your current life situation. Events that may seem negative can also be seen as openings for growth, a new interest, a different path or new understanding.
- Now think about the opportunities that you have had, or could have, since becoming a carer. They can be small things, not just major ones. If it is difficult to do this alone, try talking talk it through with someone else.
- Write down five positive changes or new opportunities that have come about. Remember that they do not have to be big things – anything counts.
- Writing down these opportunities can help you change your focus to what is positive – both now and in the future. Try doing this exercise every few weeks, and you will gradually start to see more opportunities and look on your situation with more acceptance.
Karen started buying old furniture and upcycling it for the house. She also dabbled in jewellery making. Other people might find gardening or tending to pot plants soothing. Walking on your own or even taking a neighbour’s dog might feel like a task, but it also gets you out of the house and into some fresh air.
Watch Karen's story:
Acceptance: key ideas
- Recognising your carer’s role can be a first step towards accepting, rather than fighting it
- Learn to seek help rather than struggling on your own
- Being a carer may give you an opportunity to look again at what life means to you
- Many carers face a lot of change; fighting it is exhausting. Embracing it can be heart-warming