Looking after our wellbeing through story-telling
Stories play a major role in healthcare and wellbeing in many ways. Stories about our life help us to increase our self-knowledge and help others to understand and respect us. My workshops are designed to help people to write about their lives in a way that can enhance social and family networks and improve self-esteem, which are important factors in maintaining physical, emotional and mental well-being.
Often when caring for others, especially someone we love, we put our own self-care and wellbeing on hold. We might feel guilty if every second is not devoted to helping our loved one in facing their challenges. But eventually, we feel worn out and possibly even angry and resentful. Sound familiar?
A major message in my mentoring sessions is that taking care of oneself first and foremost is vital to sustain our own health so that we are in the best position to help our loved one. A second message is that in an ongoing caregiving role, the caregiver often needs to heal as well as their patient, and a third message is that recognition of this offers a great opportunity for self-growth and improved relationships with others.
Writing can assist wellbeing by helping you to connect more with yourself, and from there, with others. Perhaps you are feeling isolated and lonely, and are experiencing a range of emotions that are unfamiliar and unsettling to you. Well, the learning of journaling techniques can help you work out why and can assist you in reclaiming optimum physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.
Taking care of the caregiver as well as the patient
Story-telling is helpful at every stage of life but especially at crossroads which can occur at any time but more so in adulthood, mid-life and towards the sunset years of our life. The reflective process involved in story-telling helps us to observe the mapping of our life so far, and gain a clearer sense of direction on what path to follow next.
Telling our story is fulfilling and productive. It allows us to document memories and reflections, explanations and perhaps even heal from painful events that occurred a long time ago. By writing a story, we preserve a permanent and lasting legacy of our life experiences and expression of our self and our values. This process helps us to understand, forgive, and feel understood. The steps involved in telling the story also help to reaffirm and remind us of our achievements at a time when we may be experiencing losses, changes, and challenges in our life.
Often, the main caregiver in the family can seem to live in the shadows – always there, putting aside their own needs to help others. People ask about the patient but not the caregiver. Sometimes, other family members, including siblings, also can feel invisible. People ask them about the patient, but not about themselves. Social isolation can creep in, self-esteem may drop to zero, and self-care might fly out the window. Nothing in the family structure is functioning at optimum level.
Story-sharing can help family members to reverse this situation, help them to feel valued and respected, and to appreciate and respect the perspectives of each other. By bringing thoughts and feelings to the table, in a supportive and non-judgmental environment, everyone benefits. It is often easier and more effective to write about our feelings than to talk about them. When your story is shared, it can become a permanent legacy and provide family members with a deeper understanding of not only your life but also of their life. The narrative is a good way for relatives to gain insights about a loved one and build a sense of family and community.
Let’s not forget the patient either. Helping them to record their story is a win-win situation – with an opportunity to develop literary and creative skills in a meaningful way and provide first-hand insights through their eyes into the family and community fabric. At the same time, bridges of understanding and respect are built between generations.