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You became a caregiver...whatever that means!

Your life was turned upside down. You did not apply for this role, but when your loved one was diagnosed with a physical or psychological disability…you became a caregiver. You take on this role because it is your duty to your loved one, but no one has given you a manual or training for this job. Though every caregiver’s journey and situation are unique, you learn to do things you never thought you could do. You are a legal expert, a financial agent, a problem-solver, an advocate, while also taking care of normal life activities, like cooking, cleaning, and laundry, for both you and your loved one. You go to war for your care recipient every day to make sure they get the care they need and to keep their dignity and quality of life. You are learning to adapt and manage all of these responsibilities under pressure. And this is not a job that is temporary and that you can quit, and it often gets worse.

You are grieving everyday...

You are scared and devastated as you watch someone you love, admire, and care about diminish. And your care recipient also knows they are fading away. Not only are you losing this person, but also the life you have built and the future you had planned for. All your hopes and dreams are being destroyed right before your eyes. The magnitude of the loss…it is beyond difficult. 

You are on a rollercoaster everyday...

You experience a range of emotions from anger and frustration, to compassion and joy. Seeing your loved one suffer is both frightening and so very sad, but there is also a sense of love that has deepened and bonded you on this journey. You realize life is fragile and every moment with your loved one is a gift. Though you worry all the time, you also have a sense of purpose. It is simultaneously the most challenging and most rewarding role. 

The role begins to weigh on you...

Maybe you began this journey thinking that you would be the most exceptional, caring, patient, and kind caregiver 100% of the time. But you did not realize how much energy it takes. You begin to feel overwhelmed and drained, physically and emotionally. You lash out in anger and frustration towards your loved one, and then immediately feel guilty and critical of yourself for not being as exceptional, caring, patient, and kind as you set out to be. You begin to resent your care recipient and others for not acknowledging or appreciating all of your sacrifices…you often feel invisible. You feel alone and disconnected from others and believe no one understands.

You lose sight of you and your needs...

You spend most, if not all, of your time, energy, and attention focused on the needs of your care recipient. You believe their needs are more urgent than yours. Maybe your own body is beginning to take a toll with increased tension, fatigue, and pain. You get sick a lot. Yet, any time you try to take care of yourself, you feel guilty or believe that you are being selfish. Perhaps you have let yourself go because you are scared and unsure of what the future holds.

You are barely holding it together...

In any moment you have alone, you are breaking down and then building yourself up to put on a brave face for your loved one. You are thinking “I am just trying to survive this moment and this day.” You feel overwhelmed and depleted, and you are having more and more difficulty showing compassion. You are having difficulty appreciating each moment with your loved one. You are losing sight of your purpose as a caregiver.

There is help!

I'm Dr. Emily, and I am an expert in treatments focused on caregiver burnout, compassion fatigue, and secondary traumatic stress. Through the integration of self-compassion, mindfulness, and cognitive-behavioral approaches, I help you listen to and advocate for your own needs, turn the internal critic into a caring one, and teach you skills to soothe and care for yourself and to treasure all the moments in the roller coaster of caregiving. By learning to take care of yourself, you will ultimately be a better caregiver to your loved one within 3-4 months or less.

Why am I focused on caregivers?

Over the years, I have been struck by how little attention and resources are given to the invisible warriors of caregivers. As a person who has devoted her life to caring for others, I know what it is like to feel overwhelmed by taking on the burdens of others. I have learned to identify the burnout and fatigue within myself and take action to take care of me, so I can better help you. I now take what I have learned for myself and through my professional training and experiences to help other caregivers through my practice and my position in the Caregiver Support Program at the West LA VA Hospital. 

What can you expect?

When you feel desperate, guilty, selfish, fearful, exhausted, resentful, and overwhelmed, and you find yourself breaking down, you will not be judged. Every caregiver’s situation, experience, and needs are unique. I will gently guide you through the process of leaning into these difficult feelings, so you are better attuned to the needs of your mind and body. Through this intuition, I then help you to cultivate the self-compassion, self-advocacy, and self-care skills that best fit with your life and role as a caregiver. 

You will feel better...

By going through this process, you will gain greater confidence in your ability to identify and advocate for your needs, which will ultimately make you better attuned to the needs of your care recipient. You will be able to roll with the punches of caregiving more skillfully and problem-solve the everyday challenges that arise more adeptly. You will take the time you need for yourself without feeling selfish or guilty. You will be more present and grateful for the full catastrophe of life that is amplified through caregiving.

Begin caring for yourself, so you can be a better caregiver!

  1. Learn more about caregiver burnout, compassion fatigue, secondary traumatic stress, and treatments by clicking here.

  2. Start building a mindfulness practice and your self-care toolkit by clicking here.

  3. Book your free 15-minute clarity call today if you are ready to carve out time for yourself, learn to harness your compassion for others towards yourself, and become the best caregiver and self you can be.


Your real influence is measured by your treatment of yourself.

A. Bronson Alcott

Suffering is part of the human experience. But how often do we judge and criticize ourselves for our suffering? Thoughts, such as “You’re so disgusting!,” “No one can understand me,” “Suck it up!” and “You are such a loser!” can run like a constant commentary in our minds, which can lead us to feel worthless, unmotivated, and isolated. You are your own worst critic as the saying goes, and it’s true. We live in a culture where we are defined by our achievements, perfectionism, and evaluation against others, and self-criticism is used as a safety mechanism to beat others to the punch when we don’t meet these high expectations. For example, when we mess up on a big work project, we might say “I’m such a failure!” before someone else can tell us so, which may elicit sympathy versus rejection from others. However, imagine that a good friend, co-worker, or family member was in the same situation. How might you respond to them? Would you yell, “you are such a failure!”? I didn’t think so. So then why do we need to be so harsh on ourselves?


Compassion is literally defined as “suffering together,” or the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering. Self-compassion is the extension of kindness, care, warmth, and understanding (instead of criticism) towards oneself when faced with suffering and a desire to help yourself alleviate that suffering. There are three core components of self-compassion:

             Mindfulness:             The ability to pay attention to and sit with your suffering without

                                                ignoring or exaggerating it…in other words, non-judgmentally.

             Self-Kindness:           The ability to respond to your suffering with kindness and                  


             Common humanity: Remembering that everyone fails, makes mistakes, and gets it wrong                                                     sometimes, we are not alone in our suffering.

 As an extension of mindfulness, self-compassion is considered a trans-diagnostic and resource-building approach that has been shown to have many benefits and can also be integrated into any treatment. There are several techniques to cultivate self-compassion, such as meditations with warm and compassionate stances, anchor phrases (e.g., “May I be kind to myself in this moment of suffering.”), and soothing touch or activities. I will work with you to cultivate your inner self-compassion through personalized practices and exercises. 

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

There are many things in our lives that are out of our control—diagnosis of a chronic condition, death of a loved one, getting fired, etc. Yet, in an attempt to control the situation, we might try everything in our power to resist it and suppress the associated negative emotions that comes with this new reality.  It’s like being in a tug-of-war with this uncontrollable thing; so much of your energy is being directed toward it that you miss out on everything around you. 

Combining mindfulness and behavioral strategies, ACT teaches you to drop the tug-of-war rope. Yes, this uncontrollable thing will still there, but you will now have more space and energy to direct towards the things that are important to you. ACT is an evidence-based treatment that has been shown to be effective for a wide-range of issues, including depression, anxiety, coping with a chronic illness, and workplace stress. Acceptance is not something you just check-off a list, but a process that I will help guide and support you through. I will then work with you to figure out what is important to you and to develop tangible steps towards committing to meaningful activities.

Click here to learn of one individual’s journey towards acceptance of chronic pain

Relaxation Skills

Our nervous system is made up of two parts. The sympathetic nervous system, also referred to as the fight-or-flight response, is our body’s response to stress, and involves physiological changes, such as increased heart rate, shallow and rapid breathing, and muscle tension. The parasympathetic nervous system, also referred to as the rest-and-digest system, is the state our

Playa Tamarindo Conchal in CR.jpeg

body is in when it is relaxed and promotes longer-term functions, such as digestion, immune functioning, and cellular repair. Our bodies work optimally when these two systems are in balance. Unfortunately, we are evolutionarily hard-wired to have a more active fight-or-flight response because it was more adaptive for our hunter-gatherer ancestors to be constantly scanning for survival threats.


Though we continue to scan for threats that activate our fight-or-flight response in today’s society, we are not typically faced with survival risks on a daily basis. Thus, we must be proactive in practicing relaxation to increase activation of our rest-and-digest system. I will provide you with tangible strategies to check-in with your body to determine if you are in a state of stress or relaxation and set you up with tools that promote relaxation. These relaxation skills are best practiced on a regular basis so that you develop the awareness and “muscle memory” to utilize them when faced with everyday stressors.

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