The COVID pandemic is a stressful time and is effecting people across the world. It can be confusing and hard to see someone you care about not acting like themselves. Taking on the additional task of helping a family member who is having a difficult time requires practical and emotional help. It is also important to ensure that your physical and mental wellbeing remain a priority; ignoring your own self care is a recipe for burnout.
How to help your loved one…
If a loved one is having a difficult time coping with worries, fears, stress or other emotions, it is important to acknowledge their concern; try to see things from their point of view, this will help you understand their perspective. Use effective communication skills with active listening by being engaged and interested in what they are saying.
“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph Nichols
In addition, observe the non-verbal communication such as the tone of their voice, facial expressions or eye contact.
Allow the person space to vent, listen but do not give advice. You can help them do this verbally by giving them a sheet of paper to write down their fears and the best way to deal with them. Over time, the venting of emotions will slow or stop because you are not fueling the fire by disagreeing, correcting them, or by telling them that everything will be okay.
In difficult times we all need additional love. Have patience. Don’t blame or shame. Remember to be empathetic. This will lead to more honest conversations.
Provide hope, it can instill motivation and change someone’s perspective. Reframe the COVID outbreak and have a conversation about what this time is teaching us.
Aim to have opportunities to be together free of COVID conversation. Focus on connecting and strengthening your relationship. Take advantage of the time when your kids are not around and do something fun. Perhaps you can plan a date night; i.e. it can be a picnic in the living room. Plan a meal and cook together or play music and dance. Or, simply dim the lights and get comfortable on the sofa together. If you do not live with your loved one, consider safe opportunities such as a distanced, outdoor get together.
Recognize that there are limits to what you can do to support your loved one. You cannot “fix” them and it may be necessary that they receive professional help.
JFCS offers drop in hours Monday – Friday for a 30 minute session, or you can make a referral for outpatient counseling.
How to help you, the caretaker…
Self-care is a key component to overall positive mental and emotional health. In order to help those around you, it is important to identify your own feelings and emotions. Allow yourself to feel.
If you are personally feeling overwhelmed, journaling could provide you with a release and outlook on what you are going through.
Take time for yourself to reduce stress and unwind. Stay calm. Engage in mindfulness exercises, like adult coloring books/worksheets, reading, working on a hobby, or a relaxing bath. This time will allow you to re-energize as well as recognize that you are important and need to have time to yourself.
Consider joining a support group where you can connect with other people experiencing similar circumstances.
Shirley Bellardo, LCSW, LCADC