Why is it so hard to ask for help?
Perhaps the management skills, fierce loyalty, and big heart that make us such great caregivers also make it difficult for us to ask for assistance. We tend to see it as a sign of weakness and we feel that our loved ones can’t afford to see us as weak. But listen: when you ask for help you are putting yourself in a vulnerable state. Others recognize that and respect you for it. Sharing our vulnerabilities is the basis of human connection.
We understand that as a caregiver, your natural state is a giver of support rather than a receiver. It’s time to change that. Giving without receiving is an unsustainable practice: if you give all of your time and energy away, you won’t have any left to give. But if you allow yourself a respite with some help, you can re-fill your tank so you can keep moving forward.
So how do you ask for help?
Make a list of the tasks you need to accomplish. Which ones are easy for someone else to pick up? Which ones do you want to do? Leave this list somewhere easily accessible and when someone calls check the list and let them know what you need. Also try to get comfortable reaching out rather than waiting for a friend to call. Your friend’s phone call might not coincide with your crisis.
Have you ever had a really stressful week and found yourself with the flu the next? Your stress level has a huge influence on your immune system. Imagine how your body is reacting to the stress from the full time job of caregiving! When you’re afraid of appearing weak by asking for help with a couple of tasks, think about how much help you will need if you get sick by taking on too much.
The help you need may not only be with tasks and responsibilities. Be aware that as a caregiver you are prone to loneliness, depression, and fatigue. If you feel like you may need some emotional support, don’t be afraid to ask for it. It can be from a friend, relative, therapist or support group. Use your computer as your lifeline—if it’s the middle of the night and no one is available, go online and reach out. Check out our forums and chat rooms. Even if no one responds immediately, it is a relief to get it off of your chest.
Take it from us: we wouldn’t have gotten through the rough times if we didn’t ask for a little help. You are not alone in this journey, we’re coming with you.
Alexandra Axel was the first founding staff member at The Caregiver Space. As a New York native, Allie grew up people-watching and story-collecting, eventually pursuing her undergraduate degree from The College of New Jersey in sociology and creative writing. At The Caregiver Space, she worked with social media, graphic design, blogging, and program development to brand and grow an online community composed of, and focused on, caregivers. From the seedlings of an idea to the thriving community that it is today, Allie was there from the beginning to support the evolution of The Caregiver Space.
Allie enjoys writing poetry and short fiction, devouring books, biking, crafting, urban agriculture and imperfectly cooking. She currently resides in Brooklyn with her pup, Hen.