Socially Exhausted?

2010 June 14

When you are a caregiver, you can’t help but reduce your contact with the outside world. Whether you like it or not, your world shrinks and almost all of your attention is reduced to a room or maybe even simply your loved one’s bed.

As the days and week pass, you may find yourself voluntarily choosing NOT to venture beyond your front door to the outside world—not because you don’t want to take a break and not even because you don’t think it will be good for you—but because being in the company of others who care about you and your loved one can be exhausting.

Friends, family, and co-workers care about your and your loved one. Their care, however, is almost always expressed in the form of questions:

‘What’s the latest news?’

‘How is she feeling?’

‘Are things getting better or worse?’

‘What are the doctors saying?’

‘You’re not giving up, are you?’

‘He still hasn’t given up hope. Right?”

‘Are you pursuing experimental treatments?’

‘Are you taking care of yourself?’

Walking out of the private caregiving environment and into work, church, or any public gathering in which others know something of your caregiving role is similar to that of emerging from a dark cave and walking into the unforgiving light of day.  Sunlight, like being in the company of others, is healthy, but if you’re not prepared for its temporary blinding effects, it can be overwhelming.

Questions are the way others show us they care. Questions are what others lean on when they don’t know how or what to say. However, answering others’ questions over and over and over again can drain precious energy from you.  Unfortunately, the more questions you answer when you are in the company of others, the less likely you are to make another public appearance and receive the healthy benefits of being around others.

You know you are socially exhausted if you think about taking a brief break from your caregiving duties to be with others, but then convince yourself that you’d rather stay at home because you don’t have the energy to answer everyone’s questions in the detail they deserve. If you are socially exhausted or know a caregiver who exhibits some of these symptoms, read my tips for how to prevent social exhaustion while fully taking advantage of the energy, community, and love of others.

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