nicole bensen

Even rescuers need rescuing

When I saw this tow truck pulling a fire truck a couple of weeks ago, the first thought that popped into my mind was, “Even rescuers need rescuing.”

Tow truck towing a fire truck: even rescuers need rescuing

Who are you a “rescuer” for?

You might be a caregiver to kids, your parents or in-laws, your work team, or even in a caregiving profession, like a doctor, social worker, or teacher.  

When we’re present with someone, we can feel their emotions due to our mirror neurons, which are a part of our brain that can discharge when we’re doing something OR watching someone else doing something. Raise your hand if your eyes fill with tears when watching the YouTube videos of dogs welcoming soldiers home. ✋🏻 

And when we care for others who are suffering, that can take a toll on our emotional health because the pain center in OUR brain gets activated.

If you’re feeling irritated, restless, angry, or distracted, or having trouble sleeping, or experiencing distressing and intrusive thoughts, you might be experiencing caregiver burnout. 

A proven way to prevent caregiver burnout is to offer yourself compassion. You’ve heard the phrase, “Put on your own oxygen mask first,” and this applies here. You can’t give to others if you’re empty. And remember those mirror neurons? By tending to your own emotions first, those around you will be able to pick up on your calmer emotions which can help stabilize theirs, too.

Offering yourself compassion is one of the most effective ways to help others and yourself. Because even rescuers need rescuing. 

Try this practice:

  1. Write down three activities or behaviors you do that help you cope with the stress of being a caregiver. (Think: exercise, therapy, sleep, music, etc.)
  2. Write down three activities or behaviors you engage in that are NOT helpful for coping with stress.
  3. Write down any ideas that come to mind for changes you could make, like adding more of the helpful things into your day or eliminating things that are unhelpful.
  4. Choose just ONE THING you’ll do this week, either adding or subtracting something, to support your mental wellbeing.

Want to learn more about self-compassion? The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook shares exercises for this “proven way to accept yourself, build inner strength, and thrive.”

And be sure to check out my online program, Next Level You, for more self-compassion practices.

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