by Tracey A. Smith, M.Ed. CTRS
What do you do for you? How do you keep your vitality, balance and wellbeing while caregiving? How do you balance your home, work, relationships and play? How do we deepen our sense of wellbeing and resiliency under an accumulation of stress? In a fast paced society, self-care is often not supported.
Caregivers have the responsibility of caring for another person’s wellbeing. This includes parents, teachers, therapists, clergy, medical professionals, and middle-aged children caring for elderly parents. As caregivers, it is essential to take the characteristics of Care and Giving and use it for our own self-care, for the role of caregiver includes some level of exposure to stress, compassionate fatigue, and traumatic experience on a daily basis.
Compassion fatigue is a process of cumulative exhaustion and the gradual erosion of our ability to care, brought about by the intense demands of caregiving without adequate balance and self-care. Stress affects the mind, body, and spirit. Every person’s stress and levels of burden are unique. How one copes with the symptoms of stress may vary.
Current and ongoing societal stressors can compound the life stress of the caregiver. These stressors can include experiences with racial and gender discrimination, stories of homelessness and violence, natural disasters, and widespread political unrest. Unaddressed, mounting stress can give way to feelings of hopelessness and decreased self-esteem, even leading to withdrawal from friends and family and those communities that help buffer us from burnout.
Dean Solon’s poem Here and Now speaks to the climate of stress during our current times. Encouraged by his perspective, here is an excerpt that I found particularly helpful.
be open to be allowing yourself to be encountering and engaging with these interesting times
be with attention and intention to be living with clarity and loving kindness
it is not time to be shutting down
this is the time to be opening to all that is
with mindfulness and heart fullness
There is hope. Wellness is a choice with the personal responsibility to address our stress. We can make a choice to practice loving kindness with ourselves. Healing and transforming stress and maintaining fitness of the mind, body and spirit involves lifelong learning. The better we take care of ourselves, the better we can care for others. How can we do this?
· Reconnecting to ourselves and give attention to our well-being.
· Increasing self-esteem with mindful self-care.
· Recognizing that attention to self-care is not selfish.
· Engaging in awareness of the present moment.
The three “R’s for caregiver stress are Release, Relax and Rejuvenate.
RELEASE feelings of guilt, fear and shame. Sometimes we think that we are the only provider of care for a person and may be unable to recognize the resources that are available, reluctant to use existing supports, or in need of new support systems. We may believe, “No one else can do it like me.” And maybe they can’t. But it is still essential that we step away to care for ourselves. We can learn to allow another caregiver or professional to cover our duties or client while we caring for ourselves. We can begin to learn to combat these fears with our own spiritual fortitude and resilience. Healing Hints - Spend time doing enjoyable leisure and cultural activities, meditating, and participating in the expressive arts.
RELAX and begin to experience the art of doing nothing. Taking the time to learn mindful techniques to quiet mental chatter. It has been said that Mother Theresa took time off from caregiving for 4-5 years in-between service assignements to relax and allow time for healing.
Healing Hints – Create self-made retreats, practice affirmations, spend time with friends who make you laugh, play and have fun.
REJUVENATE movement, exercise, mind, body, spirit energy work can increase our vitality and well-being. Stress and compassionate fatigue have a way of settling in our body and cells. It is imperative to make time for fitness of our bodies.
Healing Hints - walking, pilates, reiki, dancing, sport activity.
Tracey A. Smith, M.Ed., CTRS, Owner Wellness W.R.K.S. LLC (well-being, recreation, knowledge, spirituality), is a Wellness Lifestyle Management Educator, Trainer, Certified Recreational Therapist. What I love about my life practice is the opportunity to serve a variety of populations and participants in an enjoyable fashion. I provide workshops, trainings, and professional staff development. I create an atmosphere where participants can feel safe to explore their own issues of self-care and lifestyle management, while learning alternative ways of healing. I use Wellness Education and Recreational Therapy balanced with Restorative Practices to promote emotional, physical, mental, spiritual health and wellbeing. I am committed to promoting peaceable communities. To learn more and to schedule a program for your group, visit Tracey’s website [Insert link to: www.wellnesswrksllc.com], Facebook page [Insert link to contact Tracey at https://www.facebook.com/WellnessWRKSLLC/ ] or call her at 215-605-3221.