How to protect our energies as caregivers

As caregivers, we can feel tired and drained of energy. This is because there is a difference between the energy levels of the caregiver and the person we are looking after…. which would cause energy transfer from us to our loved ones. In this article, I would discuss on the lessons I’ve learned about energy, how I initially got all this wrong and now, how I protect my energies when in places like hospitals, at the same time allow my energies to nourish my mom (and how I quickly replenish it back).

Many years ago, I had a close friend who first taught me about energy vampires and draining situations. She took the defensive approach to protect herself….. ie burning sage, incense or some kind of energy purifying herbs, following beliefs such as using salt to ‘counter bad energy’ like throwing over one’s shoulder, adding to clothes when soaking them and sprinkling around her home.

Initially we hit off quite well and would spend hours and hours chatting at coffee shops to chat as she really have wealth of experience and is very knowledgable. But as I got to know her better, I realized that she could be quite judgmental, stubborn and she would have the thought that some people are beneath her.

One of the things she always complain about was the different CEOs that she had worked for (she worked at high position). When I listened in detail on what she said, I realized that sometimes her issue with her boss could stem from misunderstanding and it would be okay if she had learned to be more humble and do not take their words and action personally. Even though I did not work directly with CEOs before, but I’ve worked with senior management staff and from experience I know most of them had their own quirks and temperament that we need to understand and respect.

When I tried to advised her sincerely based on my own experience, one time she just snapped at me and told me that my position and hers were not the same (implying that I am of much lower stature and had no idea what I was talking about). But erm….. the organizations that she worked for are actually relatively small NGOs whereas I’ve worked with two large public listed companies who have thousands of staff and I’ve dealt with all sorts of people imaginable.

That outburst gave me the insight that deep down, she considered me beneath her and looked down on me. When that is the true case, what I say would not matter. Probably the friendship had lasted the time it did was because she just wanted to vent stuff and show off her knowledge to someone. But when the other person tried to say something that she disagreed with, we then become someone unfavourable and potentially a ‘negative energy draining’ person. Not long later, she ghosted me and the others who knew her. I was okay with that as by then I realized most friendships would have their season.

If you search about protecting our energies, then you would find many other content creators, YouTubers, books, healers would suggest that we take various precaution like soaking feet in salt, purifying the house with certain herbs….. and avoiding people who we find drain our energy and make us feel bad.

I tried that and all it did was make me more paranoid and I’ve even started to avoid crowds and afraid of being around people. Often, we cannot avoid being in crowds especially for those who have to take public transport like buses or trains. Not to mention that aside from the beings we can see, there are many more that we cannot see.

And what if we are in professions or tasks that naturally drain our energy?

What if we are caring for a loved one who is sick, elderly and unwell? Being a caregiver for my mom for coming to 7 years, I am aware there is often a shift in energy. Because the energy levels are uneven and in close proximity, my energy would transfer towards my mom making me feeling exhausted.

As my mom had been hospitalized a few times, I’ve stayed within close proximity of nurses who are health care providers who often need to work around those sick and elderly folks….. who in logical cases would drain their energy dry. But as I observed, the nurses are often able to remain energetic, including working double shifts (16 hours).

It was then I realized that for those who are able to maintain their energy, their approach with patient is that they are just doing their job but they do not put in a lot of emotional sentiment, ie being too emphatetic. If they develop emotional sentiment, then their energy would be drained easily. It does not mean they are cold and uncaring. They are still kind, observant and attentive to the patient (ie they would not ignore if they observe the patient needed something) but there is a kind of detached energy about it.

Most people would expect nurses, doctors and for those who place their parents in home, the caregivers to be filled with warmth like hugging, holding hands or offering words of comfort to those that they care for. The doctors and nurses have tonnes of cases to attend- in the hospital I observe that they are just seeing patients non stop without hardly anytime to rest. They CANNOT affort to have their energy easily drained as there are so many cases ahead for them to attend. And most of them, they also have families and obligations to go back to at the end of a busy tiring day.

It was the same for my mom when she was a nurse working in crowded non air conditioned wards for many years- where she could take two crowded mini buses to go to work, work full 8 hours non stop and then drop by at the market on her way back, carry tonnes of food and groceries on each hand, take another hour of the bus and then walk back home….. only to have to start doing housework. Fortunately my mom had trained us from young to help out with tasks such as water the plants, wash plates, sweep the floor, etc. But a lot of the heavy and strainous work she still had to do it herself.

How could she and so many others find the energy to do so? The method that my friend had described will not work for them because they could not avoid being in those situation.

Learning to look within….. external forces cannot drain us if we ourselves are strong

One of the many valuable lessons I’ve learned as a caregiver is about the dynamics of energies.

In the beginning, I often find myself to feel exhausted. When I need to hug my mom or carry her, or if my bed sticks to her bed (especially when she is critical, I need to sleep right next to her to ensure I am able to observe and attend to her immediately)…… I sometimes can feel the shift in energy, and my energy moves outwards to nourish her.

It is a situation that I do not mind to be in, in fact I am glad I am able to give my mom energy. If I feel exhausted, I just take some rest and then start again. With rest, nutrition and simple meditation practice, I can replenish my energies much more effeciently than my beloved mom as mom is currently bedridden and have end stage Alzheimers.

I have been advised by a spiritual teacher to keep my breathing meditation practice consistent (ie breathe in and out and try to be aware of the breathing within instead of having the mind wonder around). To try to be aware of the breathing throughout the day and I find that this helps to quickly reset my energy.  Spiritual teachers know what they are talking about because they have many disciples and visitors ….. and they must have a way to maintain their energies in order to be able to help others and perform their spiritual duties.

Also I have written another article in detail about how I used to feel totally drained out whenever I visit hospitals. But as my mom had hospital stays, I could not afford to feel drain as I need to keep my energy levels consistent to be able to care for my mom. It was then I made the observations of how the nurses do it, and also learn to stay grounded and do not let my mind be distracted by social media. I could actually stay in the hospital with my mom for 3 weeks with hardly ever touching YouTube…… except to hear about Buddhist chantings. This works and now, I make it a point not to scroll social media when I am in hospitals.

In other words, if we put the causes as external, then we are very much powerless to do anything….. and only can resort to some purification remedies or avoiding most situations altogether.

However if we take ownership of the situation and focus INWARDLY to strengthen ourselves emotionally and spiritually, we would find that these energies wash off us like water that does not wet a duck’s back or wet a lotus leaf.  Also we can allow certain people like our loved ones who are unwell or going through a tough patch to lean on us for emotional support. Yes, they might drain our energy but we can turn to our respective spiritual practice to restore it.

When my mom was pregnant with me, she nearly lost her life. And after I have been born, she continue to sacrifice her life for me, nurturing me and become my pillar of support and strength. Now that she needs me, it is not too much to ask. Yes, I had been feeling very tired and when my mom was in ICU last year, I was not allowed to visit her. I finally went for medical checkup and blood test which showed I had abnormal red blood cells- they are smaller and lesser than normal. Another follow up test recently and the doctor suspected I have aneamia. The doctor had since prescribed iron tablets, multivitamin and folic acid supplements for me to take daily. The iron tablets really help and I feel much better.

But during the time before I realized I had aneamia, I managed my tiredness through resting whenever I can and also while doing tasks, to focus inwardly on breathing or certain chants/ mantra to keep my mind inward and grounded. This helped me to continue to function with insufficient sleep- as I’ve never had a full nights sleep for almost 3 years since my mom got bedridden with tube feeding.

This is one of the skills I have learned as a caregiver which would be something I am able to keep for life.

I would leave you with the video by HINDZ which explains it well…. that instead thinking of ways to protect ourselves and putting the fault to external, a more wholesome and practical way is to learn to build our strength within so that negative, toxic or draining people do not affect us:

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