Education is key in helping family members understand what is happening and helping them find the support that they need. And last fall, the BC Schizophrenia Society Vancouver & Richmond Regional Team offered Tuesday Talks, sessions that provided snippets of information from BCSS’ Strengthening Families Together to family members and caregivers.
One particular session focused on the importance of boundaries and self-care. Family members often face difficulties when trying to maintain boundaries and are not always able to practice self-care when caring for a loved one with mental illness.
The importance of boundaries
All healthy relationships have boundaries as boundaries help with effective communication. Participants learned about the importance of boundaries in terms of why, how, and when to use them. Key points included: identifying your own boundaries and the boundaries of others; information on what to do when you feel your boundaries are being violated; and how to communicate effectively through honest and open communication.
After the session, one mother revealed: “I learned from another family member to keep a journal and diary for myself about boundaries when they are not being respected and when it is being respected. I find it really helps me communicate better with my son about boundaries.”
In addition to learning about how to create safe and healthy boundaries between themselves and their loved ones, it is also important to understand the importance of self-care.
“In the event of an emergency, put your oxygen mask on first.”
In theory, participants understand the theory of taking care of yourself so that you can better take care of others. However, in reality, many people often put their needs aside to help the ones they love.
Guilt and regret can cloud a person’s judgment and put the person in the position of wanting to do more to make up for their own feelings and thoughts of inadequacy. In the end, no matter what a person may believe about their own parenting skills, understanding of major mental illness, or abilities, it is irrelevant.
When a person is in constant crisis, it is easy to have the stress and pressures mount, making them exhausted, angry, and resentful about the situation – especially when one cannot see an end. However, self-care allows a person to recharge and reset their own emotional state and well-being so that they are better able to handle the ongoing stress and pressures that come along with caring for a loved one.
Through the session, participants were encouraged to consider what they did for self-care and how that would be helpful for the loved one that they are supporting. Participants were reminded that self-care is very personal and different to each person – that it could be having a cup of tea, exercising, going to get a massage, or taking a holiday. They were instructed to be conscious of what is missing in their lives, to consider what they used to do that is now disappeared. Essentially, they were asked to answer the question of what would make them happy and help them be able to continue caring for their loved one.
After identifying how they may want to practice self-care moving forward, it was also suggested that participants let someone know what they are doing to practice self-care. This creates a way for them to get the encouragement they may need to practice or to continue to practice self-care.
“This is such good information. I wish I would remember to take care of myself first, but it is difficult to put myself first.”Mother of Someone Living with Serious Mental Illness
If you are interested in gaining more information about education sessions like these, you can email Hardeep at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also register for one of the upcoming Strengthening Families Together courses beginning next month, which will cover topics like these and more. To register or to get more details on Strengthening Family Together courses, visit www.bcss.org/events/strengtheningfamilies.