As I reflect on the seasons of Minnesota, September is no doubt one of my favorite times of the year. It is the beginning of a season of reflections. However, as I see every day in my work, this is hard to feel or imagine if you are caring for a vulnerable adult.*
Caregiving can be a very rewarding experience, as we want to give our love and support to a family member or friend. It can also drain our energy when we are called to give a lot of our time, especially if also working or caring for children at home.
It is important, especially for women, to find time and ways to be renewed in health, energy and peace of mind. Maintaining an active spiritual life is one way to find much needed renewal and strength while being a caregiver. Finding balance between “doing” and “being” is difficult forcaregivers, as we tend to fall into the mode of doing.
We all know very well it is hard for us to put our needs first before anyone, and especially a family member. You spend much time balancing work life, family life and caring for a loved one in need. Life can become a series of tasks to accomplish. Ask yourself if your self-worth comes from doing for others or from being in a spiritual place.
Renew and maintain your spiritual strength
September is the beginning of harvest. It is important to find time and ways to be renewed in health, energy and peace of mind. Maintaining an active spiritual life is one way to find much needed renewal and strength while being a caregiver to a loved one. Here are some suggestions for ways to develop or maintain spiritual strength:
1) Express your feelings honestly: We want to be positive and caring people so it is often difficult to openly express feelings such as resentment, anger or even admitting exhaustion. Keeping these feelings to yourself will cause them to fester within you. Talk with a trusted friend, a clergy person, and a counselor. Use prayer, meditation or journaling to give these feelings up. Talking about them can take away their power over you.
2) Give up control: It’s ok to ask for help! A way many of us deal with stress is to control all aspects of our lives. We cannot be at work 24/7. Our bodies and spirits need rest and renewal. Give yourself the gift of rest and renewal as often as you need it this month. It may be time alone in nature or being with friends, at a spa or a support group. It may be a time of meditation or journaling. Whatever your understanding is of the need for rest and spiritual renewal, honor it.
3) You’re not in this alone, seek support: There are many support groups available through the community and churches. Talking with other caregivers can help to share needs and concerns. Just knowing that you are not alone and that others understand is tremendous comfort. A support group will also help you to see or affirm your gifts as a caregiver.
May this harvest season be the beginning for new traditions that renew your spiritual well being that will benefit you for many years ahead.
* The “average” U.S. caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who works outside the home and spends nearly 20 hours per week providing unpaid care to her mother for nearly five years. Almost two-thirds of family caregivers are female (65 percent). More than eight in ten are caring for a relative or friend age 50 or older.