Last week, I overheard a conversation at a medical office in the waiting room about what a physician had 'said' and what the patient 'heard.' It appeared that the family member with this person was their caregiver, and I could hear a tone and language that I've listened to before—my own as a caregiver.
Communication, the language we choose, and the energy our bodies emit are essential in what we speak, hear, and posture. For instance, if a patient is expressing frustration about their medication, a harsh reaction may come from their pain or fear; your response to it can be a powerful hit or a supportive landing place. Instead of reacting defensively, you could say,' I understand this is difficult for you. Let's work together to find a solution.'
I'm willing to bet that every caregiver, me included, has experienced emotional exhaustion in some form. We've all heard the words, "I can't do this anymore," come out of our mouths, or at least echoed loudly in our brains. Almost all of us have been surprised at the words we've spoken, words that come from fear, frustration, anger, and the big one-two combination: feeling resentful and feeling guilty about that feeling.
Stress is real. It's not something you should 'get over,' or you should have been 'smart enough to see coming.' It is so easy to get caught up in spin, knowing that you'll be able to balance yourself, but equally as easy to fall.
It is essential to open our awareness of how we express ourselves and how we view others:
Allow yourself to be who you are and give others the space to be who they are. We all have bad days; be open-minded and engage in conversations when emotions rise. This is not the time to shut down.
If you've had a bad day or are overly stressed or tired, that is NOT the time to talk with someone. There is nothing wrong with saying that you can't speak or meet right now, but you know it is an essential conversation and set up another time. If it is genuinely urgent, don't hesitate to let the other person know that you're in a depleted state, but you'll do your best to have an open frame of mind.
Be responsible with your words. Be open to knowing that other people have bad days, too. Listen before you speak. Pause before you react.