We have all been witness to or have actually experienced the curse of the caregiver ourselves. As a nurse, mother, wife, daughter, yoga teacher... this has been a running theme not only in my life but that I see over and over again in those around me. The ability to give and give and give... yet never receive (even often adamantly refusing offers of care or help from others). Our identity & (self) perceived value is delicately wrapped in our ability to effectively care for others. And though there is deep well of care, compassion & empathy for those who receive our care... we do not afford the same kindness to ourselves. Our own need for care can often be fueled by thoughts of failure, self judgement or selfishness. This one way flow of energy often quickly leads to overwhelm, resentment and burnout.
Though some may heavily identify with this role as caregiver and even choose it as their profession, many end up in this role by default, through societal expectations or family demands. We often assume these positions without much thought, but when we reach the point of burnout, we suddenly realize we may not necessarily have the tools to skillfully navigate this role.
So how DO we navigate this role skillfully?
Self care seems to be so misunderstood & dismissed as self indulgent, expensive, or time consuming. Visions of luxurious massages, drinks by the poolside, lazy days on the beach, dinners out, or overwhelmingly complex self-care routines may come to mind.
True self care comes in the small decisions we make everyday...
- Infusing our after shower routine of applying oil or lotion with thoughtful touch & positive self talk, giving gratitude for all the amazing gifts our bodies afford us.
- Taking the time to cook nourishing meals that will sustain us during our hectic demanding days. Food is grounding, sustaining us both energetically & emotionally throughout our day. Putting high demands on our bodies without the proper food to sustain us leave us feeling anxious, erratic & easily overwhelmed by the end of the day.
- Moving - whether a bit of yoga, a 5 min stretch between tasks, a quick run or a walk with the family. Finding small moments for joyful movement. Movement is also grounding and a wonderful way to flush ourselves with new vibrant energy, releasing tensions & processing emotions as we move through our day.
- Connecting deeply with others, allowing a sense of vulnerability for them AND you. This is where the gold is! Knowing you are not alone in your experiences & struggles is invaluable. When we allow ourselves to be open with others we then enter a shared experience vs. feeling as though you alone in your struggles or are solely carrying the burden of others.
- Prioritizing sleep. Our bodies are incredibly complex and powerful, but they need sleep to release, replenish & renew. Allowing your body to cleanse & heal itself by allowing time for adequate sleep is crucial.
- Voicing your needs. Not only identifying your needs (many times we can quickly rattle off what we need) but also voicing these needs to those in your daily circle. Once known these needs can now be integrated into the day to day flow. Time can be set aside, tasks can be delegated, care can be given when others are aware of your needs. The saying "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" sound familiar ;)!? We have a responsibility to ourselves and to those closest to us to be healthy & happy.
Theses small changes may not seem very glamorous, but they are powerful. Many of these "tasks" (showering, cooking, etc.) are already part of your daily routine. It is the ability to bring in a sense of care, candor & intention into our daily routine that can make all of the difference. Allowing ourselves to be a priority, checking in daily with ourselves to assess our current needs & trusting that we will attend to our own needs is imperative in learning to be a skillful caregiver.
As we learn to regard our own health with as much importance and care as we do others, we will notice that our ability to be of service & to genuinely connect will soar. There is much joy one can find in being of service to others. The trouble is when we are in service of others, in spite of ourselves. It needs to be a packaged deal. We must learn to give to others because we know how to take care of ourselves. To lead by example and allow ourselves to not only identify but also own our self-care needs. Allowing them to become woven into the structure of our daily habits, into the flow and rhythm of our day. This precious act will help not only us thrive, but also for others to thrive as we all learn to value and care for ourselves and each other in an more authentic and sustainable way.