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Help for Caregivers Blog

Keep up with some of the latest helpful information regarding caregiving from reliable sources.

Struggling Through Tight Spots

6/2/2022 12:00:00 AM

For me, caring for others has many positive moments. It can be rewarding and inspiring; funny and surprising. But it can also have some darker moments that are frightening or depressing; tedious, tiring, or overwhelming. There are days I love it, while other times I struggle with caregiving.

During one of the most difficult periods, a dear friend sent me an email with one of those uplifting stories that circulate on the web, author unknown. It felt like this anonymous little tale had been written just for me. Its title is: The Story of the Butterfly. My version goes like this:

One day, a man spent hours watching a butterfly struggle to emerge from within its tight cocoon. Try as it might, the butterfly couldn’t squeeze its body through the tiny hole to break free. Then it stopped, apparently exhausted and unable to make any further progress.

So the man decided to help the butterfly. With a pair of scissors he gently snipped open the cocoon. The butterfly emerged easily, but to his surprise, it had a swollen body and shriveled wings.

The man continued to watch, expecting that any minute the butterfly would spread its wings and fly. It never happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around unable to fly.

Why? Although well intentioned, the man actually hurt the butterfly. The struggle to squeeze through the tiny opening forces fluid from the butterfly’s body, shrinking it, so the wings expand. Its Nature’s difficult, but necessary, way of shaping, strengthening, and preparing the butterfly for flight.

Like butterflies, sometimes struggles are exactly what we need to shape and strengthen us. They may be painful, exhausting and unwelcomed. They may slow or stop our progress, but going through life with no obstacles would cripple us. We wouldn’t develop character, strength or the capacity to do great things. We’d never be able to spread our wings and fly.

— Anonymous

During my difficult time, it helped me to remember this story. It may help you, too. If you’re struggling like the emerging butterfly, it may seem like you’re stuck. Challenges might seem insurmountable. You may wonder if the tight-spot you’re in will ever end, or worse, will it end badly? Like the nip of those scissors, you may long for an easy solution, but as for the butterfly, these may lead to unintended consequences. However long and difficult, struggling mightily through life’s challenges builds resilience and strength. To persevere through caregiving struggles:

  • Conserve your energy. Balance times of action and rest. Respect your body’s need for sleep; it will restore not only your energy, but also your positive outlook.

  • Look for simpler approaches. Replace perfectionism. Instead, do your very best in tough situations, but let go of the need to control outcomes. Repeat this affirmation, “I do my best and let go of the rest!”

  • Step back to gain a better perspective. Take breaks, doing something relaxing or enjoyable. Respite is healing. Practice deep breathing or progressive relaxation to calm yourself. Ask a trusted person for their perspective on the situation.

  • Connect with a Higher Power. Meditate. Practice mindfulness. Pray for wisdom, strength and guidance. Remember, all things pass away…the best and the worst in life, and everything in between.

When facing caregiving struggles, whatever you do to center yourself will be good for both you and your loved ones. As you do so much for others, remember to take good care of yourself, too...Jane