I feel exhausted and resentful all the time. How can I improve my relationship with my loved one?

If you are one of the 65.7 million Americans who serve as a personal caregiver for a loved one, you’ve undoubtedly asked yourself this question once or twice. Caregiver relationships can be complex. However, there are ways to strengthen your bond with your loved one to ease that difficulty. Read on for the best ways to enhance those relationships below.

Focus on Compassion

It is normal to become frustrated with your loved one at times. However, one of the best ways to combat that frustration is actively focusing on compassion. The mindset experts at Mind Body Green have shared their best tips to increase understanding below:

  • Practice self-compassion: before you can have compassion for others, you must practice compassion with yourself. Many of us are vicious internal critics. When you catch yourself engaging in negative self-talk or other self-destructive practices, remind yourself that you are human. It’s okay to make mistakes. Cultivating self-compassion will help you develop compassion for your loved one.
  • Put yourself in their shoes: remind yourself of the struggles that your loved one may be facing, and do your best to see things from their perspective. Shifting the focus away from yourself and your feelings may prompt a greater understanding of your situation.
  • Practice presence: be fully present when you’re with your loved one. So often, frustrations arise when we’re distracted or feel like we should be doing something else. Choosing to be in the moment makes us more aware (and, in turn, can make us more compassionate). 

Engage in Active Listening

We have all heard it before: speak less, listen more. But did you know that spending more time listening to your loved one can improve your relationship? Listening more means you understand what they are looking for and asking for. When you engage with a loved one in this way, they are sure to feel more valued and loved. So how can you engage in active listening? The experts at Mind Tools share their best tips below:

  • Pay attention: this may sound basic, but it’s one of the most complex parts of active listening. Look at the speaker, put aside your distracting thoughts, and most importantly—don’t plan your comeback before the speaker has finished their statement.
  • Use physical cues: nod, smile, make sure your posture is open, and encourage the speaker along with small comments that show you’re engaged.
  • Give feedback: statements such as “so what I’m hearing is…” and “I think that you mean…” are valuable here. They show someone that you are engaged, allowing them to clarify any miscommunications.

Choose Joy

Does your loved one have a hobby or pastime that they enjoy? Do your best to engage with them in this activity. For example, read to a relative that’s struggling with their eyesight or volunteer to cut paper with a loved one who is a keen scrapbooker. Engaging in hobbies this way works twofold – in addition to helping your loved one feel more involved, these activities can reduce feelings of stress and encourage positive emotions.

And if your loved one doesn’t have a hobby? We recommend a coloring book or an art class. These activities are low-equipment, easy to set up, and often decrease anxiety and depression in seniors. 

Engage in Self-Care

Self-care can be difficult for a personal caregiver because it can feel selfish. However, engaging in self-care is essential for strengthening your relationship with your loved one. The experts at Caregiver shared their best tips for caregivers to engage in self-care:

  • Manage stress: the amount of stress (and what brings you stress) is different for everyone. To manage stress, experts from Caregiver recommend identifying your stress symptoms (irritability, lack of sleep, etc.) and the sources of your stress (feeling overwhelmed, feeling inadequate, feeling that you have no boundaries, etc.). Identifying these sources and symptoms can help you manage stress accordingly.
  • Set goals: self-care isn’t all bubble baths and pedicures. Authentic self-care is often about saying no to a commitment because you need to rest or choosing to prioritize healthy activities. However, it’s essential to set goals to reach them. Choose self-care goals and implement them into your routine.
  • Accept help: personal caregivers can often feel guilty about asking for help, but believe us when we say that soliciting help is essential to reducing stress.Our challenge to you: the next time someone offers to help you say “yes.” Once you’re comfortable accepting help, challenge yourself to take the next step and ask for it next time.

Caring for a loved one is no easy task. However, with these tips, you can strengthen your relationship with your loved one—and with yourself.