Why is it so hard for caregivers to keep their lives on track? Some of the reasons may be obvious, we live with perpetual unpredictability, grief, and often have to drop what we were planning to do, to help others. But actually, the harder part of why caregivers struggle to stay on track is that each day, we relive our emotional habits that are linked to our caregiving experience. When we see our loved ones, it may trigger for us subconsciously a series of emotions such as guilt, feeling overwhelmed, sadness, fear, anxiety, anger or loneliness that we believe we cannot control. Repeating the same thoughts and feelings over and over again conditions our body to remember the feeling of suffering without much conscious thought. This is what we call a habit and these habits make it very hard for us to manage our role of caregiving alongside our other roles.

As caregivers, to start to change our emotional response and gain control of our minds, we need to build a new level of self-awareness. Once we have these tools in place, we will start to feel a lightening of our load. We will understand that this is something that we can control. That we are no longer merely reactive animals in fight or flight mode, governed by the addictive hormones of stress. We will start to prioritize new ways to juggle our roles that will prevent us from becoming deanchored from our identity.

To get to this place, the only person who can start a new chain of events is ourselves and it requires a strong determination. We need to explore the knee-jerk, auto-pilot actions and habits that are so ingrained into our personality and piece by piece slowly rebuild our lives. I like to call it a practice because that is honestly what it becomes. Each action, each moment of self-reflection, each new routine we introduce, allows us to start feeling as if we are waking up.

Most of you are already used to challenges and even an “in the trenches” mentality feels like a habitual response so be prepared for your body to fight back. It will want you to keep on sleeping so that is can continue with its repetitive actions and it will do everything in its power to try to get you to stay where you are. For example, if you decide you want to get up early in the morning and do a meditation, your body might tell you that it is too tired. Why bother? Start tomorrow! Or when you reach for another chocolate bar when you have told yourself that morning that you don’t want to eat more chocolate and then at 4pm, sure enough, the hormones are triggered, or you find yourself yawning, that’s your body encouraging you to surrender.

Dr Joe Dispenza writes, “5% of the mind is conscious, struggling against the 95% that is running subconscious automatic programs. We’ve memorized a set of behaviors so well that we have become an automatic, habitual body-mind.”

If you are reading this and saying, “Tanya, you have no idea how hard and complicated my life is…” I am not here to disagree with you. All I am asking is that this challenge you are facing, the areas in your life where you struggle, how much of it can you influence and improve? As caregivers, we don’t have the luxury to sit on the fence for too long – our health declines, our relationships suffer, our careers disappear. I am certain, that you all have areas in your life where you are being influenced by your body-mind. Even the emotion of feeling overwhelmed that might be coming up now, is a habit. What will it take for you to cross the river?