As caregivers, we all struggle with guilt at one time or another – or perhaps on a regular basis. Whether you take care of your loved one at home or you are responsible for overseeing their care, it’s likely that you never feel like you’re doing enough. You should have done this instead of that. You could have done that better than you did. And so the cycle goes.
The Four Agreements
After reading my recent post on caregiver guilt, my daughter reminded me that perhaps it might be time to re-read The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. She was right, and the more I thought about it, the more I thought it was also worth sharing with other caregivers.
If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it. At less than 150 pages, it’s a quick read jam packed with wisdom that will help you put things into perspective in your role as a caregiver and beyond. There’s certainly nothing magic about The Four Agreements; it’s all beautifully simple:
- Be impeccable with your word.
- Don’t take anything personally.
- Don’t make assumptions.
- Always do your best.
Free Yourself by Always Doing Your Best
Four little words, yet so profound. Always. Do. Your. Best. The key is to remember that your best is constantly changing. If you’re exhausted, feeling under the weather, or upset, you can still do your best, but your best will be different than it would be if you were energized, healthy, or calm. And, that’s okay, because at that very moment, you’re still doing the best you can do. I think this is where we often lose our way; at least that is the case for me.
As caregivers, we set impossibly high standards for ourselves, so of course we can’t live up to them all of the time. However, when we always do our best, regardless of the circumstance, there is no room for self-doubt, guilt, or regrets. If you’ve done your best at any given time, there’s nothing to beat yourself up over. Remember, though, your best changes from day to day, sometimes hour to hour.
Putting Theory Into Practice
It’s simple in theory, but most of us know it’s much more challenging in practice. Self-doubt and guilt become habitual, so it will take practice. When you feel those oh-so-familiar feelings of inadequacy creeping in, remind yourself that you’re doing your best. Your loved one wouldn’t ask for more than that. He or she would understand that sometimes you’re tired or out of sorts.
Some days will be more difficult than others. It’s inevitable that you will lose your patience when your mother asks the same question six times within 30 minutes. There will be a day when you’re just too emotionally drained to visit. And you’ll most certainly be filled with doubt when it comes time to tell your parent they can no longer drive or that it’s time to think about assisted living. Give yourself a break. At those moments, stop and take a few deep breaths. Let go of the internal struggle and remind yourself that you’re doing your best.
Post a list of the four agreements on your refrigerator, or keep the book in a handy spot so that you can pick it up and read a few pages when you need help getting back on track. I hope you’ll find this little book as helpful as I have. Peace of mind is the most wonderful gift we can give ourselves. And our loved ones would want that for us, too.
“Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.” ~Don Miguel Ruiz