Is anxiety and frustration taking a toll on your health as a caregiver?

Photo credit: Undraw

You can get so wrapped up in caring for a loved one with a mental illness that you forget about yourself.

Soon you begin to feel overwhelmed and unable to perform your role to the best of your ability. Feeling of stress and anxiety take over.

I recently took a break because I realised that my levels of anxiety had risen to an acceptable level.

A few days later, I began to recover. My anxiety and stress came down. I was smiling again, making little jokes and enjoying myself.

It’s not always an option for a caregiver to get away from a loved one with a mental illness. They may not have other people who can provide them with support. And, it costs a lot to place your loved one in a care facility for a few days or a week.

It’s difficult for a caregiver. One thing to think about is having mini breaks, which I do myself. This might include taking a walk, going to the shops on your own, and going outside for a few minutes, especially in my case where I don’t have a separate study.

I’ve looked at some of the research and it’s worrying. When you have high levels of anxiety, chemicals react in your body and compromise your health.

So it’s no light matter. The point I’m trying to make here is that you can be physically affected by all the caring that you are doing.

It’s not a permanent solution to get away. You have to re-engage eventually. This in itself is difficult after you’ve had a break or time on your own.

But some of us have no other choice. Our loved one may well have no other place to go.

Breaks are important. Recognise the signs in yourself when it’s time to have a break so that you can get some space to recover and heal yourself.

PS Chesney Bradshaw is a skilled helper with sixteen years experience. Click on this link if you need help. My coaching could change your life as a caregiver for the better.

Next to the living sea of waking dreams  

Photo by Jako Janse van Rensburg on Unsplash

I had the privilege after more than 40 years to spend almost an entire summer at the coast. For me the morning walks on the beach from Clovelly to Fish Hoek was the most amazing part of my summer holiday.

One morning I was walking along the beach and it felt as if I was walking in my living dream.

The water the sea water was warm against my ankles, the sea breeze blew softly against my face, I felt the sun all over my body, I smelt the saltiness of the air and became relaxed in a trance-like state.

I had longed for this for more than 40 years – and here I was at last.

It’s amazing. Just think of all the things that happened during those years, and I had made it through – still alive – to enjoy the fruits of my many years of labour.

Some people don’t believe in goals. I don’t know why. But having goals is important. A goal is a positive thing.

When things have become rough in my life, I focus on my goals because, as I said, they are positive things.

Your goals naturally are in the future, but they give you something to look forward to, to aspire to attain.

We know that the pursuit of happiness is illusory. You have it for a moment and then it’s gone.

More importantly, it is to have peace of mind. A famous surgeon and author once said that the safe harbour that we all yearn for is peace of mind.

Yes, the summer is gone. And we’re in that last month before winter comes with its icy grip.

But those memories of walking down the beach and seeing so many people enjoying it – older people, young people, lovers, dog owners and sports people swimming, kite boarding, flying kites, surfing – provides memories that I can tap into at anytime to remind me of happy times.

When we get back into the grind of daily living, dealing with problems, having to make difficult decisions, watching the Rands and cents, it’s so vital that we’ve been able to be free for a while.

It helps us gain perspective about our lives, the things that we enjoy and love, and that we’ve strived so long and hard to achieve.

Bargain-hunting rampant with poor economy

Photo courtesy of Undraw

I don’t know if you’ve noticed — perhaps you have — but a lot of bargain-hunting is going on because of the horrid economy.

Specials in supermarkets are being snapped up.

Secondhand clothing stores are flourishing in particular areas.

Property buyers are making low-ball offers for pretty decent properties.

And this is the problem. It’s one thing hunting for price specials but when selling your own valuable assets, you can’t be expected to give them away.

Why should you give away your property for less than the market price?

Wouldn’t it be better to wait until the market improves?

But that’s speculation isn’t it?

When will the market improve? We don’t know. Things are looking bad now. The country’s economy is not performing.

All the growth forecasts in the years gone by have turned to naught. Pie in the sky nonsense.

How can an economy run on very little electricity — and with forced economic policies that undermine business growth?

A hold strategy can work if you’re aware that this entails risk.

For entrepreneurs it’s a different story. If you are an entrepreneur, and a company is selling its stock or assets for less, then you have an opportunity.

Look at all the businesses that are closing down. Assets from these businesses are sold at often bargain prices. This arbitrage opportunity benefits other businesses in their pursuit of profit.

As they say, “One person’s loss is another person’s gain”.

There’s the saying, “Caveat emptor” which is Latin for “Let the buyer beware”. But when the shoe is on the other food and you are a seller, be wary of the buyer.

Power supply disruption is a top business risk – businesses struggle with continuity

Photo by Viktor Talashuk on Unsplash

One of my connections on LinkedIn commented on a pole that I had run last week on the major challenge of power cuts for business continuity. The comment related to how without uninterrupted power one couldn’t really talk about business continuity.

The comment is valid because with the continual power cuts in the country there is continuous disruption to business.

The INTERNATIONAL STANDARD ISO 22301, Security and resilience — Business continuity management systems — Requirements, defines disruption  in clause 3.10 as follows: “3.10 disruption incident (3.14), whether anticipated or unanticipated, that causes an unplanned, negative deviation from the expected delivery of products and services (3.27) according to an organization’s (3.21) objectives (3.20).”

Businesses are finding it hard to cope with continuous disruption of power supply. In 2021 there were about 50 days with power interruptions. Some experts forecast about 100 days of power outages for 2022.

As you know, many businesses have been forced to invest in backup power, mainly diesel generation. In the restaurant industry many have gone for gas cooking and diesel generation. Some businesses have made massive investments in hybrid systems, including solar and diesel generation.

But for manufacturing and mining, for instance, these power sources are not enough. Think about a smelter, for example, which needs massive amounts of electricity.

It is an unfortunate situation, especially for manufacturing where production or output is lower because of the electricity outages.

These organizations have made huge investments in the country and cannot operate at full capacity.

Some firms have left the country to operate in more favourable environments, and others are contemplating leaving.

Another problem that is getting worse and worse is that the loss of electricity revenue by metro’s means that they are continually pushing up rates to make up for the shortfalls. The cost of rates has increased substantially (Johannesburg spikes rates continually now with a almost total deterioration in services provided).

This is not a good situation for the economy of the country, which needs economic growth to create employment as well as investment.

Check this link to see how people in other countries (in this case Oxford Policy Management) view the power crisis in the country

Business disruption through power outages is therefore a national calamity.

Many companies have business continuity management systems to prepare for disruptive incidents.

These business continuity plans are put in place to minimise the risk of major business disruptions because of flooding, fires, social unrest and cybercrime.

As we have seen in the case of a car manufacturing plant in Durban, its operations have been down since 11 April 2022.

In a way, a major business disruption like this is not different in principle to the quantum of the continuous business disruptions through power outages. Should you require further information about business continuity, please contact me on my LinkedIn profile

How can a caregiver cope with all this?

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash
Caregivers work under continual and high levels of stress.
They have to deal with running a household as well as the demands of caring for a loved one with a mental illness.
What does this involve?
Well, let’s first look at household pressures:
Household pressures
– handling household budget (with soaring inflation)
– ensuring the house is clean and tidy
– lack of help from other adults with household tasks
– balancing work-home demands
– settling arguments and fights
Caregiver pressures
– dealing with disruptive behaviour
– ensuring medication taken in correct dose and at specified times
– handling personal hygiene issues
– demands of constant care
– feeling isolated and little time alone
With pressure like this in a household, how do caregivers cope?
What can they do to ease the burden of caring?
Let’s look at what caregivers can do.
Do caregivers need help?
– need to learn about the illness
– sharing experiences with others confidentially
– emotional involvement increases stress
– need outlet for pain, anger and sadness
– facing crises and uncertainty about problems
Caring for a loved one with a mental illness is very challenging.
Caregivers need various kinds of assistance, including practical support to deal with caring for the ill person and themselves.

Recognizing and understanding persecutory delusions as a caregiver

The responsibility for caregiving is increasingly being placed in families rather than institutions. Caregivers need to become more skilled at handling a loved one with a mental illness

Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

Caregivers face dealing with several behavioural deficits when caring for loved ones with a mental illness.

For those caring for a loved one with schizophrenia or schizoaffective mental conditions, recognizing and understanding persecutory delusion is is important.

Here’s a definition of persecutory delusions from Healthline: A person with persecutory delusions is unable to recognize reality. They strongly believe people or groups, like the government, intend to harm them. These beliefs are often unrealistic or bizarre. Persecutory delusions frequently appear in mental health disorders, like schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.

We needn’t go into studies and the science behind persecutory delusions here but rather consider how you as a caregiver can handle your loved one.

I know from experience that persecutory or victimization delusions can become challenging in a family. The loved one with these delusions can react in various ways, including shouting abuse at a caregiver, sulking all day long, and generally putting a strain on relationships within the family.

In working with a loved one with persecutory delusions one has to be careful not to raise the level of anxiety that the loved one already has. It’s important to try to calm the person and situation down. It’s perhaps suitable to leave a loved one alone for a while so their emotions can settle.

So a calming down of the situation will help. There are various ways of dealing with your loved one with the persecutory or victimization delusions and we won’t go into them here except to say it’s more helpful to give them reassurance and make them feel comfortable than to question why they believe someone is persecuting or victimizing them.

As a caregiver, you may also need to handle extremely disruptive persecutory delusional behaviour. This can be a sensitive area and it might be better to get advice from a psychology practitioner than a skilled helper.

For example, in a situation where the loved one with a mental illness is being destructive towards your partner, you may need to even change living arrangements to prevent your partner suffering from the verbal attacks from your loved one who has a mental illness.

All I’ve learnt in my more than 16 years as a caregiver and skilled helper for loved ones with a mental illness, is to learn as much as you can about mental wellness and coping skills. It can bring about more harmony in the family.

The burden (what a word!) of care is increasingly being placed in families rather than institutions. This is why caregivers need to become more skilled at handling a loved one with a mental illness otherwise things can go awry.

There is a huge feeling of overwhelm and emotional distress associated with caring for a loved one with a mental illness. Unless you can handle the rigours of caring, you will find that your health and well-being suffers and in some cases to such an extent that you may find yourself needing medical help.

Chesney Bradshaw is a skilled caregiver.

Ignore interpersonal power dynamics at your peril

It’s important to understand interpersonal dynamics because of the impact they can have on life in the home.

Photo by Kat Smith

In my skilled helper and coaching work I make myself aware of interpersonal dynamics because it is so important. It acts in the background and if you are not aware of it, you can come to false conclusions about the people you are guiding.

Interpersonal dynamics is any engagement between one to one, one to many or many to many. It involves the different levels of power between people and how people seek to increase their power. These power dynamics affect interpersonal relationships.

It’s important to understand the basic concept of interpersonal power dynamics before we move on into how it plays out in coaching caregivers and other forms of skilled helping.

I came across a situation in coaching where I realised that more was happening than my client was letting on. However, it soon became clear that there was a power struggle forming between another caregiver in the home and my client. This resulted in an open attack on me because the other caregiver felt a loss of power and became threatened.

Before things became a dark triad, I disengaged myself from the coaching. It was important to exit as soon as the interpersonal power dynamics are outside my scope as a skilled helper. This messy business is best handled by someone who specialises in interpersonal dynamics.

Still, it’s important to have what novelist Lobsang Rampa called the “third eye” (said to be located in the centre of your head) so that you can be aware of what is happening in a family coaching setting on a meta level.

This power dynamic has played out in my own life in recent times. As a caregiver of a loved one with a mental illness I was aware of this power dynamic between my adult child and my partner of ten years. There was a continual battle between them and while I did things to minimise the conflict, I was powerless to change the underlying structure between them.

The oscillation between the two of them grew into high levels of conflict. Eventually things became too much and my partner left my home. It was a gut wrenching experience and I am still living with the pain of loss of what we had created over a period of ten years.

It is not easy to be a caregiver of a loved one with a mental illness or any other health condition for that matter. This is why I have been inspired to help other caregivers through coaching. Knowing what to do in certain situations on a practical level can empower caregivers.

But ultimately caregivers need to learn to look after themselves and get the necessary support to take care of their loved ones.

It’s important to understand interpersonal dynamics because of the impact it can make on life in the home. To a certain extent it can be managed but in extreme cases as I have mentioned it would be wise to bring in an expert or make changes that transform the interpersonal dynamics in a holistic way.

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How anger spoils your health

Photo by Julien L on Unsplash

No matter how much good food you put in your mouth, it’s what comes out of your mouth that can affect your health.

People go on all sorts of healthy eating diets. Some try to cut down on red meat. Others eat both meat and fat. A growing group go vegetarian. Others go to the extreme and settle for a vegan diet.

Healthy food is all good and well but the words that come out of your mouth can lead to stress and anxiety. The things you say to other people—family members, friends, and colleagues—can have a detrimental impact on your health.

Especially when words are spoken in anger.

I’ve witnessed and experienced unnecessary anger turn into nasty words and comments. It makes me anxious, causes stress and affects my sleep.

The perpetrators suffer from the same levels of anxiety and stress. They justify their words, thinking that their anger was the right thing. Soon their bodies will feel the effects of what they spewed out in anger.

Before you open your mouth, think for a moment about what you are going to say.
Will your words hurt – both your and the person you are addressing? Are you in the right emotional state? Should you wait until you are calm?

Various techniques are available to calm yourself down. From the old wisdom of counting to ten or the more recent STOPP technique.

While expressing anger can be helpful when done in the right manner, blind rage as some people quickly fall into, just harms both parties.

I’ve been talking about spoken words face to face, but words can also be put into voice notes on WhatsApp, social media messages, and emails.

The best path to take is to understand that peace of mind makes the body healthy and anger expressed in any form is destructive to body, mind, and spirit.

Has anyone seen a long-haired ginger cat around, in the last two days?

Photo by Engin Akyurt:

I saw this message on the power cuts app during the present blackouts:

Has anyone seen a long-haired ginger cat around, in the last two days? Our little guy has gone missing!

Cats always seem to go missing. It’s in their nature. A cat is free to do what it wants – to go stalking on roofs at night and generally run around as they please.

Someone I know tells me the story about how their cat would go away for weeks and live at another house — they didn’t know this at the time. They thought their cat had gone missing. When the cat came back, the neighbours (down the street) were in for a surprise when they came to collect “their” cat and were told that the cat didn’t belong to them.

Cats are much less dependent on humans compared to dogs. It’s basic sense that a dog needs its owner (what a terrible word) for food and water. A cat can find his or her own food.

They catch all sorts of things from birds, rats, lizards and even snakes. But often they do it just for the fun of it.

However, cats also know who butters their bread. We stayed at a cottage in the Southern Peninsula. My dear partner stayed with us for two weeks and every evening the neighbour’s cat would come for its meal. When my partner left, the cat didn’t visit me and my daughter. Then weeks later when my partner came back the cat made a reappearance in the evenings. It must have really enjoyed my dearly beloveds cooking.

It’s a beautiful thing to watch a cat adopting a hunting stance. I saw one recently on a roof, creeping up towards where a bird was on a tree. Suddenly, the cat froze like a statue. Not a movement. Then the bird flew away. The cat shrugged it off and continued hunting.

Cats seem to have a sixth sense. I was staying at a home in the Cape where the homeowners had a cat that never took any notice of me or my daughter. That’s how cats can be. On the night before our departure the cat came into our living space and spent the night with us. How did it know that we were leaving the next day? Perhaps it was glad to see us go.

Cats can teach us a lot. The way they rest their bodies. Their stretching exercises. Razorlike focus in their moment of attack. And their discerning (often aloof) attitude towards humans.