Mother’s Day just passed and with it came the awareness of all that mothers do taking care of their families. But there are many caregivers who are not necessarily mothers that have similar demands in life and so are just as vulnerable to the stress accompanying that role.
The world of a caregiver is a complex and unique one. This world is a source of great joy, satisfaction and fulfillment while also holding strong potential as a breeding ground for stress, tension and burnout.
There are many reasons and circumstances that draw people into service to others. For some it is a conscious and voluntary choice, for others life events necessitate moving into the role of caregiver. Whatever the precipitating factors, it is of benefit to explore the inner landscape of care-giving and have more conscious awareness of how to manage all that is involved there.
This expanded awareness will not only assist you in releasing stress and maintaining optimal health, but will also enable you to open to what can be an unprecedented opportunity for growth of your highest self. The result is an increased ability to be fully present to fully embrace all the satisfaction, love and fulfillment that can arise in the process of giving care.
By now it is well known that stress is a primary force in the development of ill health. Most people are well aware of the signs of stress even if they are reluctant to do anything about them. Implementing a stress management program is a great thing to do and certainly has wonderful benefits for both your health and your mood. However, if this is done with the attitude that it is one more task to be done, it can be a burden that wears on you and for that reason alone is given up. An approach that includes an easy attitude, awareness of self-worth and of the importance of keeping your well full so it can overflow to others makes the time spent a joy and increases your benefit immeasurably. Finding time to care for oneself is so often seen as less important than caring for others, especially when their need is so great and crucially important.
Our culture generally does not value self-care or encourage it to be at the top of the list of “things to do for success”. However, when you live in the world as a care-giver, to neglect this aspect is to sign up for trouble physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
A major source of self-neglect, aside from society’s lack of support, is our deeply ingrained belief system. When we think about self-care we quickly run up against our beliefs about deserving, about what is of value, about the value of the self, about deserving. It seems that we can run into this wall of beliefs so quickly and unconsciously that we don’t even notice it as we redouble our efforts to help and do more. So our lack of self-care quietly rests on a foundation of uninspected beliefs that silently conspire to bring us tension, conflict, confused thinking and spiritual emptiness.
Stress and its effects on all levels of our functioning, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, are real. What is less obvious with a steady diet of a lack of self-care is a gradual but deep erosion of the self that has profound ramifications on a person’s ability to feel joy, experience happiness, see beauty or find purpose and meaning within life. Slowly over time by focusing so totally on others you gradually lose yourself. The stranger that is you awakens one day and wonders what happened. What happened to your ideas and plans? What happened to your hopes? What happened to your bright dreams? The needs of others can be great, necessary and overwhelming to the point of drowning a caregiver’s needs unless you TAKE CARE.