Keeping Your Social Stamina

2010 June 15

So, how do you keep yourself from becoming socially exhausted and still reap the benefits of being in the company of other people?

First, let’s be very clear on what it is exactly that is so exhausting. Other people don’t exhaust you. It’s other people’s questions that can keep you from enjoying their very presence and keep you from wanting to venture beyond your front door. Here are a couple of tips to help you reap the health benefits of being with others without becoming socially exhausted:

(1)  Appoint a point person—Updating and informing loved ones and friends can be an energy-draining (and time consuming) role.  Don’t try to do it all yourself. You need to save your energy for your loved one. Outsource this important task. Do you have a friend who is a good communicator and is willing to keep people updated and informed on you and your loved one’s changing condition?  This role is perfect for someone who is adept at talking on the phone and emailing.  A couple of things to keep in mind when discussing this role with a prospective point person:

  • Choose someone you feel comfortable talking with.
  • Make sure you feel confident that this person will be a good representative for you and your family. Trust is essential to this relationship working well for you and for the family and friends he/she will be communicating with on an ongoing basis.
  • Be clear about what you want to remain private and what you believe is important for others to know (or not know).
  • Make sure this person is adept at all forms of communication channels, such as phone, email, and social media like facebook, so he/she can provide updates in the most efficient and effective way possible (i.e. grandma may want updates on the phone while siblings may want updates on facebook).

(2)  Be anonymous—When emerging from your caregiving role for a brief break, be aware that you may want to be in the company of others anonymously. On occasion, it can be refreshing and relaxing to sit in a coffee shop or go to a movie where people don’t know you or your caregiving duties. Anonymously participating in social settings may give you the freedom to laugh and smile without having to explain why you are laughing or how you can smile when your loved one is ill. Sometimes, freedom and energy result from not having to explain yourself.

(3)  Know who and what will energize you: Be selective in your choice of who you want to participate with socially and where you want to engage others.  As a caregiver, you have so little time to be with others, it is important to be very selective in determining the setting and friends who will provide you with what you need. Sometimes, you may want to be around friends in an intimate setting that allows you to vent or grieve. Sometimes, you might want to feel the energy and goodwill of fellow religious members who have been thinking and praying for you in your absence. Sometimes you might want to temporarily relieve yourself of your worries by spending time with friends who want to talk to you about their upcoming family vacations. Choose people and settings that reflect your momentary needs and desires. Remember, not all people and situations are created equally.

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