This is episode 59, and today we’re talking about how we can care for ourselves as we manage the emotional needs of those around us. As the mom, wife, and caregiver in your family, you are likely the one who is in tune with the feelings around you and the one who knows how to manage those feelings. Is someone grumpy? You know what to do (or not do). Is someone happy? You turn it on to be happy with them. Is someone jealous, exhausted, embarrassed, confused, disappointed, or nervous? You help them navigate each emotion. And sometimes you do it all while making dinner. But sometimes it’s just too much. So today we’re going to talk about how to be emotionally healthy while being emotionally available for those we love.
This week’s sponsor, the TwoGether marriage conference from Rising Above! My husband and I are speaking at the conference, and we’d love for you to join us.
Feb. 15th, ep. 59 Caring for Yourself As You Manage Other Peoples’ Emotions
Hi friends, this is Self-Care and Soul Care for the Caregiver, and I’m your host Sandra Peoples. To us, self-care isn’t a luxury—it’s a necessity. We need to take better care of ourselves so we can care for those God has entrusted to us.
This is episode 59, and today we’re talking about how we can care for ourselves as we manage the emotional needs of those around us. As the mom, wife, and caregiver in your family, you are likely the one who is in tune with the feelings around you and the one who knows how to manage those feelings. Is someone grumpy? You know what to do (or not do). Is someone happy? You turn it on to be happy with them. Is someone jealous, exhausted, embarrassed, confused, disappointed, or nervous? You help them navigate each emotion. And sometimes you do it all while making dinner. But sometimes it’s just too much. So today we’re going to talk about how to be emotionally available but also emotionally healthy for those we love.
Before we jump in, let me mention this week’s sponsor, the TwoGether marriage conference from Rising Above! My husband and I are speaking at the conference, and we’d love for you to join us. Listen to the end of the episode for how to purchase a conference ticket!
Last week my older son David and I were talking about what job he may want to do as an adult. He turns 16 this year, so there are decisions we can make now that would help him meet some of those goals. He said he’s interested in being a therapist, but he’s concerned about caring too much about his clients and taking on their emotions and pain. “Oh, in class they teach you how not to do that,” I told him. “You’ll learn to set boundaries so you’re empathetic and helpful, but also so you can go home to your family and sleep at night.”
It’s not just therapists who manage the emotions of others. My husband does so as a pastor. Some of his days are quite the rollercoaster of emotions and reactions. I did it as a teacher. You may sit in a meeting hearing about a student’s hard homelife and then have to walk into the classroom ready to teach about prepositional phrases. Health care workers, those in the service industry, and lots of other fields have to learn how not to let others’ emotions affect them personally without growing callused or apathetic.
As a mom, wife, and caregiver, you are often the soft place to land for your family members. Especially those of us who mother kids who have trouble regulating their own emotions. Our kids can work hard to keep it all together at school, but then fall apart at home, acting out because they can’t process the emotional load any longer. We’re there to help when we can and feel overwhelmed, drained, and exhausted when we can’t. And there are many of us who have husbands who struggle either with apathy, putting more of the burden on us, or struggle with anger, adding to the emotional climate of the home in a negative way, giving us yet another emotion we have to constantly monitor and adjust to.
So how do we handle all this? How do we keep ourselves regulated and healthy with all the factors that seem to be working against us? I have four ideas that help me, and I think they will help you as well. I’ve learned from my experiences, research, and my own therapist. I’m praying something we talk through today will connect with you and make it easier to manage the emotional load of your family members and friends. Let’s talk through these four suggestions:
- Set boundaries – The first step to being able to set boundaries is to know yourself. When you feel overwhelmed by the emotions of others, how do you know you’re overwhelmed? Does your body react? How do you feel? What triggers do you notice before you get to that place of being overwhelmed? For me personally, I have some sensory limitations to how much I can take in. I can’t focus or listen when there’s too much background noise or movement around us. I’m not good at multitasking. I’m also a problem solver, so if I’m presented with a problem I can’t fix, I take it more personally and hold on to the stress that’s not mine. So, I’ve learned to set some boundaries. I may say, “I want to listen to this story and how you feel about it, but first let me finish making dinner.” Or I’ll mute the TV and turn my phone facedown so I’m not distracted. There have even been times I’ve told Lee that I am happy to listen to him vent about a situation, but that he needs to know it’s hard for me not be able to offer solutions or when he doesn’t take my advice and keeps wanting to talk about it. Knowing myself helps me communicate those boundaries with those in my family and friend circle who are able to respond to my boundaries with respect.
- Practice healthy detachment – Now, there are times boundaries don’t work. For example, in a conversation with my therapist, I was sharing what it’s like when James has a meltdown. Boundaries don’t work. I can’t tell James that his meltdown is coming at a really bad time for me and for him to wait until I can give him my full attention. My therapists asked what I did do in situations like him melting down. I told her if I know the trigger, there are some ways I can help, but usually there’s nothing I can do. He has to work through it on his own. And I have to accept that with some healthy detachment. He has ownership over his meltdown, not me. My older son sometimes has to take ownership of his grumpy mood because I choose not to react to his banging and stomping. Have you heard the saying, “Not my monkeys, not my circus”? That’s some healthy detachment right there. Someone else having an emergency doesn’t mean I’m having an emergency. Healthy detachment is a kind of boundary that you set in your own mind and can implement no matter what reaction you get from the other person.
- Get your own therapist – What do the helpers do when they need help? They find their own helper. I still often turn to my mom when I need to. I also have friends who are great listeners and can empathize and encourage me. But the best decision I’ve made to help me stay as healthy and available as possible is to talk to a therapist. And, to be quite honest, one of the triggers for getting one was disappointment in how those around me were managing my emotional needs. I was feeling like too much for my friends and even Lee and my mom. My therapist helped me as someone who could handle my emotional load, but also gave me coping strategies for validating myself and my own feelings even when others weren’t available.
- Recognize your limitations – The truth is I can’t always be there when my people need to vent or unload. I won’t always say the right thing. I won’t always have the best response. If I did, they may always look to me to fulfill their needs and never learn to regulate their own emotions. In the bigger picture of things, they may rely on me so much they never turn to God. That means I need to recognize my limitations and even failures to manage their emotions. They may walk away from a conversation with me and think, Mom really doesn’t understand. She didn’t listen well or give good advice. Then they have to figure out on their own what to do next. This happens in extended families and in friendships as well. I can’t always be available to friends having a crisis. And has hard as it feels in the moment, in the long run, my limitations can benefit everyone around me.
Those are my four pieces of advice for managing the emotions of those around you: set boundaries, practice healthy detachment, get your own therapist, and recognize your limitations. They have all helped me, and I hope applying these ideas will help you as well. We have to take care of ourselves to be able to live out our calling as caregivers in the years to come. Let’s pray together:
God, thank You for the gift of family members and friends who we do life with each day. Doing life together means we feel lots of strong emotions and that we need each other’s support and encouragement. But God, You know that sometimes this feels overwhelming to me. You are the God Who Sees, and You see us today as we want to love our families well without taking on stress that could affect our own emotional and physical health. Help us to think through what we’ve talked about today, and give us wisdom to apply what’s helpful to our own lives. Jesus Himself set the perfect example of being available and encouraging to those around Him while also setting boundaries and empowering their own responsibility. Help us to do the same for those we love. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Alright friends, before our time today is over, I want to tell you about an upcoming virtual marriage conference you don’t want to miss from Rising Above Ministries:
We all know that being a caregiver to someone with special needs is rewarding, but it can also come with its share of challenges. And often times, marriages suffer because there are so many other things that need our attention. That’s exactly why Rising Above Ministries created the TWOgether conference, a one-night virtual event designed to encourage couples to keep fighting for their marriages. You’re invited to join other special-needs parents who understand the struggles and have seen God’s faithfulness through the tough times as they keep choosing each other. My husband Lee and I are two of the featured speakers, and we’d love to have you join us. Find out more at RisingAboveministries.org.
Thanks for listening today, friends! I hope our time together was an encouragement to you! If it was, can you take a couple seconds to give the podcast a 5-star rating? It’s a huge help when others are deciding if this podcast would be worth their time as well. Thanks for your support! I’m praying for you this week as you live out your calling as an abiding caregiver!