Sunday, February 8, 2009

Reach out and get involved!

When you are taking care of a loved one, sometimes the four walls seem mighty small and confining. You may not have time to call a friend to talk for a little while, or you may not have anyone to call who understands what you are experiencing.

If caregiving makes your days begin to feel "same old same old" and depression begins to poke its head into your affairs, then think about ways to combat and overcome!

You can still reach out to others who know what you're going through, without ever picking up the phone or leaving home. There are online communities on the Internet that can help you get through those dry or tough times; they can be either a hobby or a lifeline!

You can email an online friend, post how you feel into "Internet space" (which allows you to vent sometimes to people who understand but aren't going to be hurt by what you might say), or you can chat online.

A note about safety first. It is wise to join a community and get to know the people before you chat with someone. You always want to practice security in your Internet dealings.

You also want to be sure that the community is a good fit for your needs. You can get a feel for the group by reading others' posts. In fact, you may just read for a while before posting. And there's no rule saying you ever have to write or chat, so look for what is important for you.

Do you need to read and be encouraged, but you don't need to talk? Do you need to read and talk, so you can get some human connection? You can choose whatever community is best for you.

If you like to reach out by writing (like I do), look for a group where you can contribute, too. Your experience is valuable!

If you join a community and post or chat, you bring a lot to the table. Sometimes you may be the most experienced person in the group, in which case others can learn from your situation. Sometimes you may be the least experienced and have a lot of questions, which helps others reach out and share what they know. Then sometimes you will be somewhere in the middle--not least experienced nor most--and you can share and learn as you go.

Online communities are growing, and they are a win-win avenue for those of us who are at home all or most of the day. You don't have to leave home to have outside contact, and the communities are open 24 hours a day. Even if no one else is on when you get there, you can read what others have posted and encourage yourself.

It's wonderful, and sometimes it's the difference between an okay day ("Someone knows how I feel and they understand.") and a rough day ("I really need to talk to someone who understands, or who can help me get my mind off my day!").

I've been involved with online communities for several years. It started out as a new thing that was unfamiliar, and now it's old hat. I have a couple of groups that are a real blessing to me. Our son is a US Marine, currently deployed, and as mother of a Marine (MOM) I get a lot of support and information from the two family boards I am a member of.

Another group involves entrepreneurial education, and one involves writing. They help me think about non-health issues and give me a creative outlet for personal development. It's kind of like going to school online, and I look forward to learning from both of those groups.

So reach out and get involved! You can find all kinds of help, and even help grow yourself professionally while staying home.

Those same four walls don't have to confine you. Thankfully, we have these little boxes with wires that go OUTSIDE the walls! :-D


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