How I Overcame Compassion Fatigue – 7 Things I Did

compassion fatigue treatment

This is Part 2 of: Feeling Fatigued And Apathetic? You May Have Compassion Fatigue. To understand the backstory to this post and why I’m a credible source to discuss this topic, you may want to read that first.

Is Compassion Fatigue A “Problem”?

Some may be looking for a treatment, to me that makes it sound like we are treating a problem. Anyone who knows me, or has been to the homepage of my website, will see my words I stand by: “People don’t need to be fixed, they just need to be woken up”.

Treatments are for problems, “waking up” is realizing that there was no problem in the first place, we just thought there was.

Compassion fatigue is still very real, I know from personal experience. However, in my experience with myself and others, when one sees something as a problem they have a tendency to resent the “problem” and what they think is the cause of the problem. This is all stems from them seeing it as a problem.

But what if it wasn’t a problem? How would that change things?

The reason I am bringing this up is that I resented Allie in the past because I saw her as the cause for my “problem” (compassion fatigue). Once I woke up to the fact that my problem was thought created, that it only existed in my mind as a problem, I was able to free myself of resentment and move toward healing myself and our relationship.

From Lost To Found, To Back Home

For the previous 6 months, my entire focus was on Allie. I neglected myself to a large degree.

I was no longer consistent with my workouts. I was no longer sticking to my nutritional plan. I was no longer being social. I was no longer myself.

I knew I was neglecting myself, I just felt guilty spending time on myself when I felt I should be spending it on Allie.

By following my inner guide, I was lead down a path back to self-love. I started getting back into a more consistent workout routine. I started eating more like I used to. I started going out socially a bit more. I started learning and growing by studying nutrition.

I gradually built this foundation back up over a period of months and cruised for several years. I had hit a plateau.

I knew something was missing. I still didn’t feel like I was all the way back home. I still didn’t feel unconditional love for myself. Something was blocking it.

I still had resentment toward Allie and myself, although not as strong. The only way forward appeared to be that I had to forgive both of us.

My future had to become more important than my past.

The transformation I went through started roughly 18 months prior to my writing this. It involved:

  • learning NLP through iNLP Center and receiving my NLP Practitioner Certification through them
  • taking up a daily meditation practice
  • waking up 60 minutes earlier to go through a morning ritual
  • reading over 60 books (and counting)
  • discovering The Three Principles understanding (by far the most impactful and profound element)

I no longer feel resentment toward Allie or myself. I have never felt more at home in my life.

7 Things I Did To Overcome My Compassion Fatigue

Based on my own personal experience, these are the 5 major elements that brought me back home:

1. Self-Love

I understand that as caregivers we can feel guilty spending time on ourselves, and we may have difficulty creating that time as well.

But if you want to come back home and love again, you must love yourself and nourish your soul. You don’t have to do it all at once but start somewhere. It can be as small as choosing one thing you used to do that you have always loved to do and spend 10 minutes per day on it. Something that when you do it, time seems to disappear. Do THAT!

It sounds so simple I know, but there is such a profoundness in simplicity. You can only give what you have inside so make sure that what you have inside is full of love.

2. Forgiveness

Self-love also encompasses forgiveness. If you hold any resentments toward yourself or the one you are caring for, you must forgive. This resentment will continue to block all the unconditional love you have to offer until you release it. Any resentments you hold toward yourself will be projected outward no matter how hard you try not to.

Bottling up resentments creates a continuous stress response inside your body which will inevitably lead to you feeling emotionally drained. It sucks all the emotional energy out of you, leaving the battery empty to feel anything else.

3. Recharge Your Emotional Battery

Without recharging, you can only sustain peak emotions for a period of time before they become unsustainable. This is when you start to feel emotionally drained, and possibly even apathetic, detached or numb.

Ways to recharge your emotional battery include being in nature, spending time with a pet, meditation, general quiet time, reading an inspiring book, light exercise etc. Generally, anything you love doing that gets you out of the environment that has contributed to your compassion fatigue is what you want to do.

This also allows you time to process your emotions.

4. DO NOT Resist Emotions

DO NOT resist emotions, this is will make your situation exponentially worse, trust me! You must feel your emotions in full force. For some, this may seem scary at first. If you are one of those people, I promise you this, your emotions cannot harm you.

Resisting your emotions actually elicits a prolonged stress response that wreaks havoc on your body. This is what leads to high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, inflammation, and nearly every other disease.

Let your emotions run their course and they will disappear on their own, you won’t have to push them away.

5. Proper Sleep

I find that the importance of sleep doesn’t get talked about enough when it comes to stabilizing ones emotional world. Proper sleep is absolutely imperative to any emotional recovery. Proper sleep is determined by quantity and quality.

You want to aim for roughly 7.5 hours of sleep (some people need more and some people need less). As for quality, if you feel groggy in the mornings, it’s a good bet that your sleep quality isn’t very good, even if you slept through the night.

It is during deep sleep that our physical body heals and rebalances, including balancing our hormones, which get thrown way out of balance in times of emotional stress. Improve your sleep to heal the side effects of your emotional distress.

6. Exercise

Exercise releases natural feel-good endorphins within our bodies. Chances are, you have not felt these good endorphins very often if you’re battling with compassion fatigue.

Regular exercise can help to rewire your brain to producing and experiencing more positive stimuli. This is important because it assists in breaking the pattern of being wired for apathy and distress.

You don’t have to go join a gym right away (although that would be awesome), you can start with a 10-minute walk every day and work your way up from there. You could join a league for one of your favourite sports as well. Just start doing something, get moving.

7. Pursue A Passion

Passion, being derived from the word compassion, will also be lacking in your life if you are dealing with compassion fatigue. With passion being generally defined as something you absolutely love to do, you will lack passion because compassion fatigue hinders your ability to love, but it doesn’t stop you.

Initially, I pursued my studies on nutrition, and more recently on coaching (and the many studies it encompasses). Studying spirituality, meditation, the mind, the three principles, philosophy, starting this blog to help up others, and much more, all have ignited a passion within me greater than I have ever felt. This passion has trickled into every other area of my life, including becoming more compassionate.

What are you extremely passionate about that you could start doing? Start doing it.

If you have experience with compassion fatigue I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below 🙂

Learn from all of your experiences, opportunities are everywhere.

Take care,

Rob Kish

Feeling Fatigued And Apathetic? You May Have Compassion Fatigue

what is compassion fatigue

Using my personal experience as a catalyst for this article, I will discuss what compassion fatigue is, some signs and symptoms you may experience, and in Part 2 I will discuss what to do about it.

Do you seem to always feel tired?

Do you feel emotionally drained?

I know I did for the first 7 years of being with my wife Allie. I was completely drained all the time, especially emotionally. It affected my social life, my professional life, and my close relationships.

At the time, I had no idea what compassion fatigue even was or that it even existed. Fortunately, I was able to overcome it through a personal transformation I went through and will continue to go through for the rest of my life, which I will explain shortly.

It wasn’t until after I had overcome the many obstacles in my life through this transformation that I learned what compassion fatigue was and that it was something I dealt with for years. I had no idea.

What Is Compassion Fatigue?

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, here are two separate definitions:

“the physical and mental exhaustion and emotional withdrawal experienced by those who care for sick or traumatized people over an extended period of time”

and

“apathy or indifference toward the suffering of others as the result of overexposure to tragic news stories and images and the subsequent appeals for assistance”

In my opinion, compassion fatigue is mental and emotional exhaustion, not physical. Physical exhaustion has another classification called “caregiver burnout”. These are two separate conditions.

Caregiver burnout is more to do with the physical duties of being a caregiver which may also include sleep deprivation. Whereas compassion fatigue is attributed to the massive amount of empathy caregivers have toward the one they’re caring for.

Signs And Symptoms Of Compassion Fatigue

  • Apathy
  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Difficulty expressing emotions (especially love)
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Loss of passion for life
  • Inability to hold space for your partner
  • Impatience
  • Short-fused
  • Lack of motivation

My Initial Encounter With Compassion Fatigue

Without a doubt, I experienced severe emotional withdrawal and apathy. My situation, however, is a little more unique than the majority of caregivers.

Most caregivers to a significant other were previously in a relationship prior to becoming the caregiver, I was not. My wife, Allie, had Leukemia for 9 years prior to the beginning of our relationship. I chose to engage in this relationship knowing the risks.

I was flying high from May 2009 up until January 2010. Our relationship was amazing, and I can confidently say that I gave everything I had emotionally. I was loving, somewhat understanding, positive, and I was a rock and a pillar of strength for Allie.

When January 2010 hit, I fell off an emotional cliff. I took a week off work and lay in bed 75% of the time, just wanting to sleep. I was confused, extremely exhausted, and felt zero emotion for anything.

At this point, even though I loved Allie dearly and knew she was the one, I questioned whether I wanted to stay with her. It didn’t make sense, and I couldn’t understand why.

After this week of hell, I was never the same. I fought tooth and nail to regenerate the flood of emotions I had prior to that week but I just couldn’t do it.

How My Compassion Fatigue Developed

Now that I am fortunate enough to be in a good place mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, I can look back on my experience and observe how my compassion fatigue developed.

I distinctly remember placing myself in Allie’s shoes through various daydreams. I would do this purposely, and I would do it often.

I wanted to feel how Allie felt so that she could share her pain with me, in hopes she wouldn’t feel so alone with it.

This was my way of trying to understand her pain, of trying to understand how she sees life and the world around her.

Did it work? It sure did.

It worked so well that it eventually knocked me off the cliff.

The worst part about developing compassion fatigue is that I was not there for Allie emotionally. When she received bad news or had a bad day, I was not the pillar of strength or emotional crutch she could lean on.

What’s even worse than that, she started to avoid communicating with me about how she feels out of fear that I couldn’t handle it.

Our Internal Compass

As much as I wanted to, love is not something I had to offer during this time. In fact, much of what I had to offer is a short fuse, resentment, and indifference.

All I knew was that I had to change before I destroyed myself and our relationship. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, I didn’t know where to start, and I didn’t know where it was going to take me.

What I did know, is the direction I was going was leading me to a very dark place and I wanted to see the light.

The road I was traveling was never ending. Leading to a destination of insurmountable despair and hopelessness, consuming my sense of direction the further I went.

I didn’t see the importance of the awareness I had at the time. The awareness to recognize the direction I was going. The awareness to recognize that I always have an internal compass to point me in the right direction.

Without recognizing this, I was doomed. Now, with my newfound awareness, all I had to do was let my internal compass lead the way.

Read Part 2: How I Overcame Compassion Fatigue and How You Can Too

Learn from all of your experiences, opportunities are everywhere.

Take care,

Rob Kish

What To Say To Someone With Cancer? Be More Than Words

what to say to someone with cancer

I write this with a heavy heart. Merely thinking about what my first words would be to someone who has cancer takes my breath and words away. Which is OK, as long as I keep breathing because I don’t think it’s the words that matter so much.

Even though I can say I have first-hand experience with wondering what to say to someone with cancer, being that my wife has cancer, this does not mean that my advice is neither right nor wrong. It is simply my perspective.

Words Were Never Enough

For the first several years of our relationship, I kept looking for the right words, the perfect words to say to my wife that would ease her pain and suffering. Words that would bring her more ups and fewer downs.

What I neglected to realize after years of looking for that magic phrase is that words in and of themselves hold no power. It is the one who speaks that holds all of the power.

The words of some of the greatest leaders in history only held power because of who was speaking them. The power to be an enormously influential presence came as a result of their actions and who they showed up to be. Without their actions and presence, their words would hold about as much power as you or me.

Once I started to see this, I knew it was time to focus on who I am showing up as opposed to what I was going to say.

Be More Than Words

Now, I could be way off the mark here as I have never had cancer, I have only shared my life with someone who does. Based on my experience and feedback from my wife, one of the last things someone with cancer wants is to be surrounded by pity and fear.

Your ability to be present, while safely holding space full of love, understanding, and compassion will provide them infinitely more of what you want to give them than words ever could.

Therefore,

if we really want to be more than words, we must be love and not fear.

This is why it is so important to face your own fears surrounding cancer. If fear is dominating you then it is also dominating your love. Your presence will radiate fear and they will sense it.

What Would Mother Theresa Do?

Imagine, during one of the most painful memories you have ever experienced, that Mother Theresa approached you, with no words and no fear. She was radiating infinite love, compassion, and understanding as she walked toward you. You could just feel this infinite energy of love swarming all around you.

When she got to you, she draped her arms around you. She held you as if you were the only other person on this earth other than her.

Sure, Mother Theresa is a very wise woman, and she may whisper some words of wisdom in your ear. Ultimately, it is not the words that matter, anyone can say them, it is that they came from an infinite well of love.

It is her, as a human being, as a symbol of love, that brings you comfort, not the words.

See Them In Person

Nothing compares to human to human contact. It allows you to share space together, suspended by time and bound by love. You cannot achieve this through even the best technology in the world. Whether it be Facebook Live, FaceTime, or even a holographic figure of each other, none of them compare.

It doesn’t matter how close you are to them. It could be a work colleague that you have only spoken to once. If they aren’t well enough to make it into work and are at home resting, find out where they live and surprise them with your presence.

If you want to give them the gift of love, put yourself in front of them, give them a hug.

What If I Can’t See Them In Person?

Again, I strongly recommend you do find a way to see them in person, especially if this is someone close to you. Make sure you have exhausted every single option before you consider this. I understand that certain circumstances may not allow a face to face presence, and in this case, you need to find another way to show them your love beyond words.

The best gift we can give to someone with cancer is love, and lots of it

Ideas to show your love:

  • Make something for them (food, art, woodwork, be creative)
  • Send them a gift of an experience (a play, sporting event, date night, something they’ve always wanted to do but never did)
  • Donate to a charity in their name
  • Plant a tree in their name
  • Write a song or poem, maybe even send a video of you reciting

Put your thinking cap on, make your gift of love thoughtful and memorable

Websites For Unique Flower and Gift Ideas:

www.ellisigifts.com

www.globalrose.com

www.loveisarose.com

www.positivypack.com

www.demdaco.com

www.giftcards.com

If you have any other suggestion please share your own experiences and/or creative ideas.

Learn from all of your experiences, opportunities are everywhere.

Take care,

Rob Kish

5 Valuable Life Lessons I’ve Learned As A Caregiver

To me, these 5 lessons that I learned through my journey of being a caregiver convey the profound simplicity of life.

1. There Are More Important Things

Being a caregiver to my wife, who has Leukemia, has influenced me to rethink what is really important in life. I used to think things like money, status, keeping mediocre relationships, pleasing others, getting out of debt, and petty complaints about things I couldn’t control were all of high importance in life, among other things.

When faced with a real risk of losing the one you love so dearly, all of those things fall to the wayside. Suddenly, all those things that you used to base all of your life decisions around aren’t all that important anymore. I can tell you this much, in the grand scheme of things, they aren’t worth ruffling your feathers over.

At the end of the day, all we ever want to feel in our lives are unconditional love, joy, and fulfillment. I was looking in the wrong direction my entire life up until I had this shift in perspective. I then realized I already had the recipe for unconditional love, joy, and fulfillment within me the entire time. It’s just like when you are looking everywhere for your sunglasses only to find out that you have been wearing them on top of your head the entire time.

2. Look For The Silver Lining

When I made a decision to start dating my current wife over 9 years ago, she already had Leukemia. In fact, she had Leukemia for 9 years prior to us starting to date. To think that this brush with cancer and potential death could pose a potential opportunity would have been absurd to me at the time, and borderline cruel.

I mean really, how could being a caregiver to the love of your life possibly present an opportunity? At the time, this would have sounded like positive thinking hocus pocus crap. Now? Not so much.

Over the years, I have learned to embrace the experience. I made a decision to use it as a catalyst that would eventually wake me up to more of who and what I really am. We are all equipped with an infinite well of innate wisdom and an inner genius just waiting to be tapped in to.

There is a silver lining within every experience, even within the worst tragedy you can possibly imagine. Time is going to pass regardless of what you do with it, we may as well look for the silver lining and use it to our advantage.

3. Be More Than Words

For numerous years at the beginning of our relationship, I just kept looking for those perfect words that would take my wife’s pain away. Words that would ease the suffering and despair. Words that would get her to know how much I love her and how much I care. There are no such words.

It’s who I am, how I show up, and the presence I bring to the table that has the power to transform. No words will ever match the potential impact that can have. When I’m radiating infinite energy of unconditional love and understanding in her presence, it provides her with a feeling of safety, love, and security that words had always failed to provide.

The next time you don’t know what to say to someone, say nothing, be more than the words you could not find. It is not the words you say that translate the feeling you desire them to feel, it is who you show up as.

4. It’s Not Personal

As I’m driving home from work, I’m imagining coming home to my wife and being received with a big warm hug and a tender heart. Her loving smile shows how excited and happy she is to see me.

I walk in the door and pause for a second, waiting for my imagined dream to come true. Instead, there is dead silence, all is still. I hear some rustling in the kitchen so I take my shoes off to go and greet her. As I walk into the kitchen I receive a “hey” as she continues to do what she is doing.

“This is not what I had in mind”, I think to myself, “She is barely acknowledging my existence.” I retaliate by doing exactly as she is doing, my demeanour suddenly changes and I become her. I am now full of tension throughout my entire body while radiating negative energy. “What did I do to deserve this treatment?” I think to myself.

I am about to confront her regarding her attitude, which to me screams “I don’t care!” At this point, I’m thinking “alright, here we go again, this is not what I want to come home to nor is this what I deserve to come home to.”

With her back turned to me she muffles under her breath, “sorry if I’m not myself, my whole body is in pain and I have a terrible migraine.” Well…that sure changes things! I was just about to make this whole situation about me when it actually had nothing to do with me.

The more this happened, the more I realized that it was never about me, and it never is. It is always about the other person, they are either in physical or emotional pain. This pain is either caused by their biology and/or their thoughts. Neither of which am I the root cause of.

The next time someone says or does something that you are about to take personally, gently remind yourself that they are in pain. When you take it personally, you become them. When you don’t, you become a source of compassion that they so desperately need at the moment.

5. Blind to Gratitude

For the first several years of my wife and I being together, all I could focus on was what life would be like without her. What would it be like to go to bed at night and wake up each morning alone, without her. What it would be like to come home from work and she is not there to greet me. Because I put so much focus on a future that may actually never happen, I started treating her like she was already gone.

My wife said to me one day, “You’re treating me like I am already gone.” I thought about that statement for several seconds, I knew she was right. That was a tough pill to swallow for me because how she felt is the exact opposite of how I wanted her to feel.

Her statement hit home with me. It also influenced me to take a look at the rest of my life to see where I am also doing the exact same thing. My wife has been my greatest teacher for appreciating the small things in life and appreciating them NOW.

When we become so focused on what we don’t have, or on what we may end up losing in the future, we become blind to what we have right NOW. We will treat others as if they don’t even exist. We will treat your job like we have already lost it. We will treat ourselves with a lack of care for our future.

A great example of this that resonates with most people is when someone is about to eat something that is terrible for their health and attempt to justify it by saying, “Life is short.” In actuality, what they should really be saying is, “I’m making my life shorter.” The focus is on living a short life and now their decisions are in alignment with creating the future of living a shorter life by ingesting food that has been proven to cause disease.

Your decisions and actions will always be in alignment with your thoughts. Decide to be grateful for all that you are and all that you have right NOW and watch your decisions fall into alignment with what you’re grateful for. The best part? You will make better decisions RESISTANCE FREE.

Learn from all of your experiences, opportunities are everywhere.

Take care,

Rob Kish

Originally published on PsychCentral: https://psychcentral.com/lib/5-lessons-from-a-cancer-caregiver/

How I Learned To Let Go Of Caregiver Guilt

caregiver guilt

Is your guilt stopping you from being who you want to be in this world? From being the best version of yourself? 

This is the one question you need to ask yourself every single time you feel guilty. When you’re not at your best, you cannot offer your best to others.

Ironically, we seem to think that we are sparing other people’s feelings at our own expense of guilt-tripping ourselves. We then proceed to use that guilt and take it out on ourselves, which then trickles into our every interaction with every living thing, ultimately ending with us being an expression of resentment instead of love.

That guilt and resentment will express itself as anger and frustration through every single interaction we will ever have, that is until we free ourselves from our guilt.

I Propose 5 Reasons We Feel Guilty

  1. We said or did something that we feel we shouldn’t have.
  2. We didn’t say or do something that we feel we should have.
  3. We are contemplating whether to say or do something that we feel we shouldn’t.
  4. We are contemplating whether to not say or do something that we feel we should.
  5. We are afraid of hurting someone else’s feelings.

Every single reason started with a rule that you made up for yourself and if you dare to break one of these rules you will be sent on a frightening guilt trip.

Keep these in mind as you read on, they are extremely important. You will always fit into one of these categories with your guilt.

Lessons From My Caregiver Guilt

One of the biggest inner challenges I have faced as a cancer caregiver, as have many caregivers, is the tug of war between taking care of myself and taking care of my wife.

The inner battle I used to face on a daily basis was ferocious.

I had no idea where to draw the line between being selfish and selfless. Now I know that both definitions are fluid, made up, and can change according to my thought at the moment.

I could easily argue and find evidence to prove that my past actions were both selfish and selfless. What is indisputable is that I was not the best person I could be for my wife, nor was I who I wanted to be for my wife because of my guilt.

I Gave Up The Gym

I have been a passionate gym goer since I was 16 years old, I absolutely love going to the gym for a good workout. At times, I would go weeks on end without a workout because my wife was not feeling well enough to go to the gym with me. I didn’t want her to feel left out or lesser of a human being due to her illness so I decided to suffer the loss with her.

The gym is not just a vanity thing for me, it is a lifestyle, it is a nourishment for my soul. I did not realize the significance of the gym toward being a better version of myself until I had a paradigm shift, which I will discuss later.

I Gave Up Socializing

I thoroughly enjoy a night out with the boys, friends, and/or family. A few drinks, a bbq, a hockey game, board games, card games, dancing on a rare occasion, and whatever else the night may bring.

At first, I was receiving invites quite frequently, I was turning down nearly every single one. Eventually, I stopped receiving invites due to my frequent “No thank you, I’m going to stay in with Allie”.

She would tell me to go out and have fun and that she will be fine. I know that if she wouldn’t be fine she would be honest with me, so I knew she wasn’t just saying that.

The strange part is, at the time, I thought she was the one making me feel guilty. Now I know that I was the one guilt tripping myself.

My own thoughts were holding me prisoner to my own guilt, not her.

There were nights when Allie was deathly sick and under no circumstance would I have left her, and there were other nights I felt guilty for leaving her, guilty for having fun when she is at home resting.

I did not give myself permission to still live life and have fun despite our circumstance. I was the one who did not want to go out and have fun while she was staying home to rest. I am the one who felt guilty for leaving her by herself without my company.

Guilt And Resentment

I felt a lot of resentment building up due to ignoring my guilty feelings, but I kept ignoring them time and time again. At the time, I thought the resentment was towards Allie, she was the reason I chose to give up those things in my life after all, or so I thought.

Resentment does not go away by ignoring it over time, you must forgive, learn from it, and consciously choose your path forward.

You can only give to others what you have inside yourself, therefore if you’re full of guilt and resentment you will treat others as an expression of exactly that.

Over time, I started directing this resentment towards Allie and our relationship was in turmoil, almost ending on numerous occasions. Things weren’t getting better as I had hoped, ignoring this resentment only fed it what it needed to grow over time.

Nobody Can Make You Feel Guilty

My paradigm shift was this:

I was not being the person I wanted to be, nor I was not being the person I wanted to be for Allie. I was feeding our relationship more stress than I was love. 

Once I truly saw this and lived it in the moment of my own experience, I finally realized that what I was doing was not working, I had it all backwards, literally. I blamed her when I really was blaming me, I was just projecting this blame outward instead of taking responsibility for my own feelings.

This insight generated new inspiration and motivation to change my actions. I was determined to free myself of my guilty conscience.

One of the insights that rocked my world and turned it upside down is that nobody can make you feel a certain way unless you give them permission. Another way to put this would be:

Your thoughts make you feel the way you do, not other people.

Understanding this and applying it to my every experience is beyond liberating. Once you can get to this point of understanding you will never feel emotionally prisoned to anyone else again. You can never feel guilt-tripped by anyone ever again.

You Can’t Hurt Anyone Else’s Feelings

I find this is a tough one to grasp for a lot of people. However, if you apply the principle from above and turn it around, it will look like this “their thoughts make them feel the way they do, not you”.

Now, this does not excuse you from being completely arrogant or cold-hearted. Use your common sense here.

If you are saying yes to someone, what are you saying no to?

If you are saying no to someone, what are you saying yes to?

For example, in my circumstance regarding not going to the gym thinking I was preserving Allie’s feelings, I was saying yes to thinking I was preserving her feelings and saying no to preserving my own. I was saying yes to offering the expression of guilt and resentment and no to offering the expression of love.

Forgive Yourself And Learn From Your Experiences

Forgiving yourself for whatever it is that you did, and are holding onto your guilt and resentment for, is crucial if you want to move forward into a life of freedom from your past.

Forgive yourself for whatever you’re about to do, you are doing it with your best intentions in mind. You are making a decision based on the quality of your thoughts at the moment. In your mind, you are making a decision to serve the greater good.

It was relatively easy to forgive myself for my actions once I realized I was only doing the best I could with the quality of thoughts I had at the time, if I could have done better I would have. I just had it backwards, now I know better.

Chances are, you had it backwards too, and now you know better. Remember, be gentle with yourself, you were, or are, just doing the best you can. How do I know? Because if you could do better you would.

I Became Virtually Guilt-Free (And Still Am)

Once I saw that I was not who I wanted to be, and forgave myself for my past actions, I was able to go to the gym again without feeling guilty. If Allie is able to join me that’s a bonus, if she can’t join me that’s great too, I will enjoy my workout and reap all of the benefits from it.

I have also been able to get out and socialize more without feeling guilty. This one was a little tougher to overcome as it meant I would be leaving Allie alone for potentially entire afternoons and evenings.

Sometimes I can feel the guilt creeping back in but I just remind myself that I am doing what I need to do for myself, for Allie, and for the world in order to be the best version of myself.

How You Too Can Become Guilt-Free

The story behind your guilt actually does not matter. Whether you can relate to my story or not,

the source of a guilty feeling is always the same (our thoughts) and the solution to a guilty feeling is always the same (our thoughts), you would not feel guilty without a guilty thought.

You can test this out on any feeling of guilt you have ever had whether it be for eating too much chocolate, cheating on a test, breaking a promise, it really does not matter,

5 Lessons To Becoming Guilt-Free

  1. Our thoughts make us feel the way we do, not other people. Other people’s thoughts make them feel the way they do, not you.
  2. We are not being the best version of ourselves, and therefore not serving ourselves or others to the best of our abilities while we are riddled with guilt.
  3. We must forgive ourselves gently, reminding ourselves that if we could do better we would.
  4. Learn from the experience that led to the guilt. Apply that knowledge moving forward.
  5. Feel the liberation, live from a place of freedom instead of guilt and you will become of greater service to others and transform your life and the lives of others.

Learn from all of your experiences, opportunities are everywhere.

Take care,

Rob Kish

How To End Emotional Detachment And Emotional Numbness

A recent coaching conversation I had with a client, who tragically lost her son roughly 4 months ago, sparked this very important topic. They have resisted their emotions every single day for the past 4 plus months. Feeling the full joy of life or the full pain of bereavement has not been permissible by them during this time of grief.

Sure, I could have coached them based on the grieving process, except I am not a big fan of having a model for every facet of life. We all think our own unique thoughts, have our own unique rules and beliefs, there aren’t 2 of the exact same human beings anywhere on this earth.

Now, I cannot say I know what it feels like to lose a child nor do I want to imagine such a horrific tragedy, what I can say is that I know what it feels like to experience emotional detachment and numbness. I also know what it feels like to overcome it.

The story of how we become emotionally detached and numb is arbitrary, the reason remains the same.

What happens when you don’t give yourself permission to feel emotions fully?

When you do not give yourself permission to feel antagonistic emotions you wound up caught somewhere in the middle. Using pain and happiness as an example, you will not feel the full force of either emotion.

Based on the law of polarities, by not giving yourself permission to feel emotional pain to the fullest extent you have also taken away your permission to feel joy to the fullest extent. Without experiencing 100% of one emotion you have no reference to feeling 100% of its’ polar opposite emotion.

You cannot understand or feel any emotion completely without understanding or feeling its’ polar opposite.

You wouldn’t understand or feel:

Presence without absence

Happiness without sadness

Excitement without boredom

Contentment without frustration

Life without death

These are just a few examples, every feeling has its opposite.

In essence, by not giving yourself permission to feel fully you are detaching yourself from your emotions and drawing yourself toward emotional numbness.

Resisting and escaping only makes it worse

I think from a young age most of us are taught that we have good emotions and we have bad emotions. The truth is, that is just a belief. The only thing we know for sure is that we feel emotions, period. Whether they are good or bad is entirely subjective, and in my opinion, judging our emotions is detrimental to experiencing the full beauty that life has to offer.

By labelling certain emotions as good and certain ones as bad we naturally try to manipulate universal laws by doing everything we can to feel “good” and everything we can to avoid feeling “bad”. All of our emotions are innate and we have all been given the gift to experience every single one of them as we are meant to.

When you try to manipulate the universal law of emotions you will lose every single time.

This is why when you try to escape or avoid feeling a certain emotion it will keep following you until you fully experience that emotion to the fullest extent that you are meant to. Many people describe this as the black cloud that follows them everywhere.

What are you afraid of?

I used to be terrified of my emotions and I didn’t even know why. This made absolutely no sense to me because when I did allow myself to fully experience any emotion, my life had so much more meaning.

If you are resisting or escaping your emotions then fear is ultimately guiding you. A good portion of society these days sees strength as being able to plow forward while detaching and numbing yourself from certain emotions. I assure you, this is not strength, this is cowardly.

True strength is having the courage to be vulnerable and fully experience whatever life throws at you.

You are not afraid of the emotion itself, you are afraid of what you think will happen if you fully experience the emotion.

For most people, fully experiencing and showing pain is a sign of weakness in the eyes of others and yourself.

In the example of bereavement, fully experiencing and showing joy at any time may not be permissible due to societal conditioning saying that you “should” not feel joy while mourning. Or, maybe you don’t feel deserving to feel joy and therefore you reject permission to feel it. Or, maybe feeling joy means you are forgetting or disrespecting them.

In the end, you have created a story as to what it means if you fully feel and express the rejected emotion. Reject the story you created about your emotions, not the emotion itself.

Once you see the story for what it is, which is a story that you made up and you can choose whether to believe your story or not, you can move on to what you need to do next.

The one thing you need to do – Give yourself permission

You are the only person holding you back from feeling any emotion. Regardless of the circumstance, you deserve your own love through allowing. Allowing yourself to feel the opposite of how you think you “should” or “shouldn’t” be feeling at any given time.

Let permission through love guide you, not rejection through fear. You have nothing to fear but your own story.

Learn from all of your experiences, opportunities are everywhere.

Take care,

How I Dealt With Feeling Lonely and Alone

Everyone who feels alone has their own justification as to why they think that is. The good news is, regardless of your own justification, the solution is still the same.

What you will not learn here is the typical outside-in approach such as making friends or building relationships with others. Although that is important, it is not the foundation.

In the inside-out approach we will focus on you, and you only. However, I will admit, there’s one little surprise at the end that doesn’t involve you.

The perspective of a cancer caregiver, here’s my reason for feeling alone

When I first started dating Allie (my wife), she had already had chronic Leukemia for 9 years. I had very little experience in understanding someone with cancer up until then. I mean, my grandmother had a brief run-in with breast cancer, which she survived thankfully, but I was not part of the inner workings of what went on behind closed doors.

Once I started dating my wife there were no doors, they were blown off. I witnessed an entire roller coaster of emotions in a world that I had yet to understand. I had to lose my identity of who I thought I was in order to start becoming a new person, one that can understand this all-new world.

It was during this transition period of losing one identity and moving toward another, which at that point you could call the unknown, that I started getting very confused about who I was.

“Why do I feel so lonely?”

All I knew is that I was very uncomfortable, I was starting to view the world differently, and I felt like the only person who could understand me at that point was an older work colleague at the time who had lost two wives due to cancer. I am very grateful for this person to this day. Unfortunately, I would still feel lonely.

I would attempt to talk to my family and friends and walk away feeling completely and utterly alone. They were still living in the world I used to live in. Although I could understand the world their thoughts were coming from, having lived there most of my life, I felt they could not understand the new world I was living in, and I could not blame them as thankfully they had not had to endure what I had up to that point.

I was feeling alone and quite frankly I didn’t know how to be alone without feeling lonely. I felt like I didn’t really belong

That has all changed now though, and I will explain how you can get there too.

To this day I still feel most people don’t understand me or how I see the world, but I no longer feel alone

Are you asking yourself “why am I so lonely?”

Human beings are social creatures, we crave social contact with others. This is perfectly fine until you use this social contact as a form of self-acceptance, relying on others to accept you or understand you in order for you to accept yourself.

Without self-acceptance, you will feel like you don’t belong, you feel rejected by society.

What happens when you feel like you don’t belong? You start to feel very lonely.

When you don’t have a strong foundational relationship with yourself you will see others’ misunderstanding of you or lack of interest in you as rejection. When the truth is that if someone doesn’t understand you or is not interested in you, and THAT IS OK, it does not mean there is something wrong with you.

The relationships you have with others are only as strong the relationship you have with yourself

Here’s how to not feel so lonely

What I did, and what I suggest you start with is cultivating a loving and accepting relationship with yourself. Once you have this, you have the foundation to build loving and accepting relationships with others. Even if you don’t, you will always have a loving relationship with yourself, you will never feel lonely again.

It is having a loving relationship with yourself that will allow you to be alone without feeling alone

This a path you must go down with an open mind. I can tell you from personal experience, there is nothing more rewarding or exciting than truly getting to know yourself. Self-discovery is a fluid lifelong journey, you are always transforming. What you want one day you may not want the next, and that too is OK.

If this gets you wondering what you should do with your life then I suggest you start with the following post as you will come across questions that will initiate this process for you. What Should I Do With My Life?

Here’s what to do when you’re lonely

This may sound extremely simple but I urge you not to overestimate the power of its’ simplicity. Nothing in life HAS TO be complicated or complex.

What I suggest you do when you’re lonely is start spending quality time with yourself

Quality time does not consist of mindless activities such as watching t.v, surfing the web, returning texts or emails, or any other mindless distractions that take you away from being fully present with yourself at that moment.

So what do I mean by quality time?

I mean nourishing your soul and nurturing your relationship with yourself. This could be:

Something that reminds you of the infinite love that always resides within you.

Something that reminds you of the infinite joy that always resides within you.

Something that reminds you of the infinite peacefulness that always resides within you.

For example, some things I personally do to nourish my soul are meditation, read books on topics I’m passionate about, spend time with my dog, write, workout, and Yoga. I workout 3-4x/wk and the rest I do daily.

What are you currently doing to nourish your soul and nurture your relationship with yourself?

If you feel you are currently spending quality time with yourself yet you still feel alone then it would be a good idea to re-evaluate how you are spending your time with yourself.

Does what you’re doing when you spend time with yourself remind you of the infinite love, joy, and peace that reside within you?

Are you 100% present during the time you spend with yourself?

If you answered no to either one of these then it is time to make an adjustment.

How well do you know yourself?

Do you know what reminds YOU of the infinite love, joy, and peace that reside within you?

Who were you as a child?

If not, then think back to when you were a child. As a child, you were on a self-discovery mission daily. Your mind had yet to be contaminated by all the worldly influences surrounding you on a daily basis.

When you were a child, think of all the things you did with your alone time that you absolutely LOVED to do, things that brought you immense JOY, and things that made you feel at PEACE during your toughest childhood memories.

You are still the same person as you were then, the only difference is that now you feel separate from yourself like you’re a stranger to yourself, hence the loneliness you feel. Who wouldn’t feel alone living with a complete stranger that you feel doesn’t understand or know you? You are that stranger to yourself.

Self-discovery can be fun or frightening – it’s up to you

I can assure you from personal experience, a journey of self-discovery can be very fun and enlightening. The best part, you control which one it’s going to be depending on which thought you choose to believe.

Self-discovery is fun once you realize any frightening thoughts you may come across are just thoughts, they aren’t you

One last thing…Get a pet

My dog loves me unconditionally every single day, no matter what. He does not judge me, he always present, and he accepts me for who I am. We can all learn many things from our pets if we just observe their approach to life.

Additionally, a pet will bring you a sense of companionship while you work on developing a deep loving relationship with yourself.

Enjoy your journey of self-discovery and never feeling alone again!

I encourage anyone to share their experiences with loneliness in the comment section below, you will not be judged I can assure you that.

Learn from all of your experiences, opportunities are everywhere.

Take care,

Rob Kish

A Message To All Caregivers…It’s Not About Us

cancer caregivers

From 2009 to this very day I have not gone to one single appointment with Allie (my wife) to see her oncologist. Not because I don’t want to go, but because she doesn’t want me to go.

Now, you might be thinking that is very strange, like many of the people in my life who just don’t get it.

At first, I thought that her decision was absurd, nobody should go to see their oncologist alone. They need moral and emotional support, the 2nd set of ears, and maybe a 2nd opinion.

Every single one of my family members reinforced my futile beliefs at the time. This encouraged me to push my personal beliefs onto Allie even harder. My persistence of trying to enforce my personal beliefs upon Allie led to numerous heated debates and arguments.

I started to resent her for her decision, and she started to resent me for my persistent pressure on her to cave into my personal beliefs. I cannot remember exactly how long this went back and forth for and if I was to guess I would say a couple years.

I couldn’t accept her decision at the time because of what I made her decision mean

The stress this placed on our relationship nearly broke us apart and nearly killed her, literally. For those of you who don’t know anything about the relationship between stress and cancer, stress significantly hinders the body to fight cancer (or any other disease for that matter) and leaves cancer to treat the body like an amusement park, doing whatever it wants whenever it wants.

I made it about ME…I wasn’t listening

For me to really “hear” what Allie was telling me I needed to put my personal vendetta aside and truly listen.

The day I truly understood that she was the one with cancer and not myself, was the day I realized that it was her decision to make all along.

If I did not like her decision that was MY problem, but I made it OUR problem.

I still remember the thoughts that reinforced my personal beliefs at the time:

If she doesn’t want me to go with her that means:

“she doesn’t trust me enough, what have I done to create this distrust?”

“I don’t deserve this, what did I do to deserve this?”

“I’m not worthy enough for her to bring me with her”

“My feelings aren’t important to her”

“If I accept her decision then that will confirm all of my thoughts to be true”

Not one of these thoughts turned out to be true!

And to explore the opposite of these thoughts…

If she does want me to go with her that means:

“I AM trusted”

“I AM deserving”

“I AM worthy”

“MY feelings are important to her”

Ultimately, I wanted to go because it I thought it would make me feel better, not because it was the best decision for Allie but because it was the best decision for myself.

What I learned

Each and every one of my thoughts was about me. I couldn’t accept her decision at the time because of what I made her decision mean. I totally blinded myself to what Allie truly needed from me at the time, and that was love and understanding, not me badgering her about my personal beliefs.

When it comes to dealing with cancer or any other illness, there is no best way to do anything. There is only your way, their way, and everyone else’s way, with none of these ways being right or wrong.

When you release attachments to your personal beliefs and understand they are not universal truths, you are free from yourself and of service to the one you are trying to help.

Lesson: Are you blinded by YOUR personal beliefs?

Whether you are a caregiver or not, you can find out if your personal beliefs are blinding you to other people’s needs through self-observation of your thoughts, emotions, and actions up until now. You must be honest with yourself or this will not work.

These observations will tell you everything you need to know. If your observations lead you to a path of “ME, ME, ME” and it’s all about how “I” feel then there is a good chance you are blinded by your personal beliefs.

Beyond that, have you put yourself in the other persons’ shoes in an attempt to try and truly understand their needs?

Can you remember a time when you were blinded by YOUR personal beliefs?

I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

Learn from all of your experiences, opportunities are everywhere.

Take care,

Rob Kish

Holding Space – One Of The Best Gifts A Caregiver Can Give

holding space and how to hold space

I wish I knew what holding space meant years ago. I could have avoided caregiver burnout, emotional turmoil, numerous arguments with my wife, and the black cloud that followed me on a daily. Sound familiar?

Holding space is largely untalked about, yet is so important for your emotional health and the emotional health of the one you are caring for. Learning how to hold space will completely transform your relationship with yourself and the one you are caring for.

What does holding space mean?

This is the definition given by Carol Webster in her phenomenal book The Holding Space Practice

  • Honour individual without judgement, first self, then family, then others
  • Suspension of anxiety over expected outcomes
  • Accepting “now” as it really is without undue regret or control
  • Allowing self and others to choose as we avoid inappropriate pressure, collusion, manipulation, and/or exploitation

The way I like to explain it to people is:

Holding space is creating a safe, non-judge-mental environment that allows yourself and/or others to be authentic, expressing thoughts and emotions without hesitation or worry.

Why is holding space so important as a cancer caregiver?

Anyone who has ever been a caregiver to someone with cancer knows that the emotions in the relationship between the caregiver and the person being cared for can reach a peak quite easily. It is very easy to get lost in all the confusing emotions. It can also lead to a very damaged and/or confused relationship with yourself and/or the other person.

I believe, as a caregiver, holding space with love is the greatest gift you can offer them.

This is where being able to hold space becomes so, so important as a cancer caregiver. There will be numerous very intense moments throughout the journey. There will be feelings of despair, celebration, anger, confusion, sadness, frustration, and the list goes on.

Being able to hold space for yourself and others during these emotional times will transform your relationship with yourself and others. Holding space will allow the moment to be as it is without trying to change it or judge it. This frees you up to be as you truly are in that moment. This removes resistance to the moment and allows love to shine through!

How to hold space for yourself and others

You have to learn to hold space for yourself first before you can hold space for anyone else. This is where the work has to be done. I can tell you from experience, it will take some time to get to a point where you can hold space for yourself, most likely months.

I can also tell you from experience that being able to hold space for yourself AND the one you are caring for is extremely rewarding. A feeling accompanies it that I cannot compare to anything else.

Learn To Hold Space With These 8 Simple Understandings:

  1. Being without doing
  2. Bravely seeing truth
  3. Feeling feelings without words
  4. Allowing without trying
  5. Gently noticing with curiosity
  6. Staying in the space without giving in to distraction
  7. A place where time and space are fluid
  8. Love is the end result, it IS the space

1. Being without doing

These days, if you don’t have a “To-Do List” that you can unravel to the floor, well my friend, you just aren’t “busy” enough. If you aren’t “doing” something then you are lazy. Most people are so concerned about their “To-Do List” that they completely neglect just “Being”. What do I mean by this?

When is the last time you allowed yourself just 5 minutes to not do anything GUILT FREE?

To experience yourself feeling truly alive in this life you live without any guilt that you aren’t “doing” something? Just allowing yourself to be authentic, as you are, at that moment? Meditation is a great way to re-learn how to do this. I say re-learn because there was a time in your life when you knew how to do this, most likely when you were a child and parental and societal conditioning have yet to cloud your judgement.

Being without doing is extremely important for caregivers to stay in touch with themselves and to not lose themselves, which is so easy to happen. What the person you are caring for needs is YOU. Having the “To-Do List” completed while you have lost yourself in the process leaves the one you are caring for feeling alone and feeling alone is a cancer patient’s worst fear. Help them overcome this fear by BEING there, by BEING YOU.

When it comes to “being without doing” while you are holding space for the one you are caring for, this simply means be authentic, present, there is nothing you need to do or say at that moment except be there for them.

2. Bravely seeing truth

First, you need to understand that your truths are only true to you, they are not absolute or universal. One shift in perspective and your truth becomes false. This is extremely important to keep in mind during those really tough emotional conversations with the one you are caring for. It is OK to express your opinion, just do it with an open mind, and in a non-forceful way, loving way.

Being able to bravely see truth starts with you. Any suppressed, or repressed, parts of yourself, or your dark side, that you haven’t been brave enough to accept as truth will need to be accepted with love as YOU. For example, many cancer caregivers, myself included, resent their role or the one they are caring for, at some point in their journey. Bravely seeing truth is recognizing the thoughts that are creating this feeling you have and facing it head on oppose to repressing it.

3. Feeling feelings without words

How do you know what you are feeling if you don’t label what you are feeling? What you are feeling is not the label you have been conditioned to give it, nor is it positive or negative, you only label it so.

How do you know you feel anything at all? Now that you are left without words, there is only one other way to know what you are feeling, and that is to feel it. Where in your body do you feel it? What does the energy feel like? What is the sensation? This is feeling feelings.

Caregiver burnout, compassion fatigue, anxiety, stress, and depression are all common symptoms of being a caregiver. Not doing these first three steps towards holding space is a major cause for this. Allow yourself to be without doing, notice your thoughts and see the truth, and fully experiences the feelings generated by those thoughts by feeling them.

4. Allowing without trying

Trying to take control requires you to have made a judgement about what is. Most times this comes in the form of a “should”. Trying too hard is trying to control the outcome. Allowing is accepting things as they are at the present moment.

Allowing can easily be confused with being passive, as many people have been conditioned to believe that if they aren’t taking control then they are being passive. Allowing is being mindful and intentionally in the present moment. Understanding what you can and cannot control at that moment. This allows space to be created that will allow you to respond to what is instead of resisting what is by trying to take control.

As a caregiver, during tense conversations, this can be the difference between reacting with anger and responding with empathy.

5. Gently noticing with curiosity

If you want to learn how to do this, pay attention to how children respond to life’s experiences or think back to when you were a child. Remember how curious you were towards everything.

Gently noticing with curiosity requires you to get out of your head and into the moment. This is the opposite of what most of us do as adults. We stay in our head and we take all of our assumptions as absolute truths and lose our desire for exploration in the process. If you suspended all of your assumptions and beliefs momentarily do you think you that you might be a tad bit more curious?

For example, as a cancer caregiver, you may have strong opinions towards how certain things “should” be done. Instead of seeing your “shoulds” as absolute truths (which they aren’t), ask yourself: “Where did that thought come from? What led to me thinking that? Is it absolutely true? What else could be true?”

6. Staying in the space without giving in to distraction

It is human nature to get distracted by your very own thoughts. As soon as you start listening to, and believing the story you are creating in your head you are no longer holding space. You are no longer present in the moment or neutral in that space.

The key is to constantly be aware of what thoughts are going through your head and the feelings they are creating without giving in to them. Acknowledge them, don’t give them attention, it is when you give them the attention that you start getting caught up in your story and stop holding space.

Now, this may sound like a very difficult task to you, and I am not going to lie, it is very difficult to do. The reward for being able to do this is far greater than any frustrations you may go through while practicing staying in the space. The good news is you can practice not giving in to distraction at any time, for anyone, including yourself. You have plenty of time to practice, in fact, all you have is time.

Meditation is a great way to practice this. There is an amazing free app that you can download to your phone called Insight Timer with over 7000 guided meditations on it that is great for beginner and experienced meditators alike.

7. A place where time and space are fluid

Think back to a memory when you were so in the moment with what you doing, and who you were being that time completely escaped you. You were completely unaware of time and you were in the “zone”, this “zone” is your space and once you enter into this space, time and space become one.

This is the space where there are no words, thoughts, feelings, or judgements, there is just you. This is the space where you feel the safest and truest to who you are.

8. Love is the end result, it IS the space

You can only give what you have inside. Therefore, you must love yourself unconditionally first before you can do so for anyone else. You must love all that you are, including all of your sacred stories that you would not dare tell anyone. When you learn to hold space for yourself you learn unconditional love for yourself.

Once you have accepted yourself as is, loving yourself unconditionally, you may now do so for others. Now you are in a space where your own stories will not dilute the space you are attempting to hold for someone else.

As a caregiver, holding space with love, without taking anything personally or making any judgements no matter what is being expressed by the one you are caring for is the greatest gift you can offer them.

Want more detail on how to practice holding space step by step?

I recommend this book: The Holding Space Practice

I recommend this workbook: The Holding Space Practice Workbook

I’d love to hear from you about your experiences on holding space!

Learn from all of your experiences, opportunities are everywhere.

Take care,

Rob Kish