4 ways to get through tough times as a millennial caregiver

Life has a funny way of bringing you down when you least expect it. As a young caregiver, life can drastically change from late night study parties to managing pain medicines for a loved one. You will definitely experience a range of emotions along with your new role. Though these times are hard, they still manage to teach us valuable lessons on resiliency.

Let’s remember, though, facing tough times doesn’t look the same for everyone. For some, it may be acting as a caregiver while trying to get through grad school or raise a young family. For others, it’s not being able to make rent, the loss of a job or the ending of a relationship.

Regardless of your situation, here are 4 ways to help you cope with tough times as a millennial caregiver:

1. Journal your thoughts and feelings.

Journaling often reminds us of middle school when we would jot down tidbits about what went on that day and our crush of the moment, but in reality, journaling is about much more than that. As a twenty-something, you might feel silly writing in a notebook about your thoughts and feelings, but once you move past that, you’ll start to see the immense benefits to journaling.

The act of writing is controlled by your left brain (the analytical, rational side of your mind). While your left brain is focused on writing, the right side of your brain (the creative, emotional side) is able to release the feelings you’ve been holding onto.

Journaling will help bring you clarity to your situation, reduce stress by relieving your mind of the anger and other feelings you’ve been holding onto, and allow you to get to know yourself better.

2. Rely on your support system.

Human relationships rely on communication to foster connection. Instead of having casual relationships, it turns out that most of us genuinely care about whom we are close to. You are there for your friends, so let your friends be there for you when the time comes.

Let these people into your life and allow them to help you out if they offer. During tough times, we often want to push away offers of help in favor of going it alone. Pride stands in our way of accepting the help we need to get through tough times.

Just as The Caregiver Space is here for you, you are there for other caregivers. These relationships are symbiotic and help each individual survive and thrive. Call your friend and tell them you need them. They will listen and help in anyway that they can. Go online and chat with people who are in a similar situation. They understand your struggles and can offer more advice and support than you will be able to give yourself.

3. Prepare yourself for tough times.

Frankly, tough times are unavoidable. They happen to all of us no matter how much we try to prevent them or run away from them. One of the best things you can do for yourself when facing tough times is to be prepared for them.

You might consider saving money in an emergency fund (or a “yikes fund”). Knowing that you have some cash stashed away that you know you can pull from without putting financial strain on yourself will let you rest easier. Likewise, keep an up-to-date version of your resume and a running list of your accomplishments that you can refer to if you ever need it.

I also recommend keeping on hand the things that bring you the most comfort. Keep a stash of your favorite candy, a stack of DVDs that always make you laugh, a cozy blanket to snuggle up in, a frozen batch of a favorite meal that you can heat up easily. Even if these things can’t bring you emotional comfort, they can help you feel physically comfortable during tough times.

Ultimately, you don’t want to find yourself unprepared to deal with the situation at hand. It’s impossible to guess what your tough situation might end up being, but keeping on top of all areas of your life will allow you to have a contingency plan in place when tough times do come around.

4. Take action.

Tough times happen to everyone and you will likely experience them many times in your life. Give yourself time to wallow, grasp the situation, deal with the emotions you are experiencing… and then take action.

It’s important to remember that you are never stuck in one place forever unless you choose to stay there. Consult your support system, take some time to journal your feelings, refer to your tough times preparation strategies, and then devise a plan on where you are going to go from here.

Break it down into simple actionable steps (e.g. “format and update resume” or “find a new apartment” or “defer school for a semester”). The important part is that you move in a positive direction to get back on track to where you want to be.

Tough times can make us more emotional, but we need to be prepared to deal with the practical side of matters too. Process your thoughts and feelings through journaling, find comfort in your support system, treat yourself to some physical self-love, and then make a plan to figure decide what your next move will be. As the saying goes, tough times don’t last, but tough people do.

Originally published at thecaregiverspace.org on June 29, 2015.

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