Caring for someone you love is a massive responsibility. It’s hardly surprising therefore that many caregivers feel under pressure to get it right. All the time. Then, when they make a mistake, they beat themselves up for not being good enough. Sound familiar?
3 things you might be telling yourself
* This is the most important job I’ve ever done…I must do it well.
* The person I’m caring for is so vulnerable…I must protect them.
* They’ve done so much for me, I must repay them by doing the same
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having high standards for yourself as a caregiver, but there’s a difference between ‘high’ standards and ‘impossible’ standards. You may always strive to do the best for the person you love, but you won’t always succeed – and what’s wrong with that? Generally speaking, if you regularly fail to achieve the things you set out to do each day, it’s fairly likely that you are setting the bar too high.
Why your best IS good enough
Caregiving is unpredictable and demanding. You can’t control the dementia journey or the person living with it, you can’t always foresee what might happen or avoid accidents or mistakes. Simply aim to do your best; you care enough, and you do enough.
Perfectionism is bad for your health
Being a caregiver is stressful enough, without the added burden of perfectionism.
3 facts worth knowing
1- Several studies have concluded that being a perfectionist is detrimental to your physical health and can exacerbate existing chronic health conditions.
2- Perfectionism can also lead to depression and anxiety and has been found to cause suicidal thoughts.
3- Perfectionists are more likely to complain of upset stomachs, irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia, chronic fatigue, shortness of breath, eating disorders, depression and panic attacks.
Source: York St John University, Brock University, Ontario
WATCH OUT for caregiver burnout
Since perfectionists are more likely to suffer from stress and depression, they are also often at more risk of caregiver burnout, the result of prolonged emotional, mental and physical exhaustion. If you reach this point, you could find it difficult to continue caring, and both you and the person you love could suffer.
Did you know?
The warning signs of carer burnout include having no energy, constantly catching colds and bugs, neglecting your own needs because you’re too tired or just don’t care anymore, and feeling helpless and hopeless.
Stop trying to be perfect
It might be a difficult habit to break, but it isn’t impossible. Here’s a few tips that might help
1- LIVE in the present. Perfectionists often focus on things they’ve got wrong in the past or things they must get right in the future. For example, ‘I made a mess of that meal yesterday, I’ll have to do better today, or Mum might stop eating and get ill.’
2- STOP the ‘all or nothing’ thinking. Many perfectionists believe they can either be ‘great’ at something or ‘terrible’ at it, which can seriously damage self-confidence. Besides, most people are something in between.
3- BE compassionate to yourself. Try showing yourself the same kindness you show the person you’re caring for.
4- SHOW your vulnerability – you aren’t a failure if you ask for help, it makes you more human and more likeable to others. Perfect people aren’t popular.
5- BAN the words ‘must’ or ‘should’ from your vocabulary, replace them with ‘could’ or ‘I’d like to’ instead. Notice the difference it makes.
6- REMEMBER, you don’t have to be ‘perfect’ to be a good enough caregiver and a worthwhile human being who’s doing the best they can under very difficult circumstances.