One of the very first things a giver of care should think about doing for herself/himself is to find quiet … find the calm center of the storm, find peace in your mind and heart. Finding quiet is calming down, letting the mind focus on the Lord. Find a physical peaceful setting or find one in your mind. Get away to a quiet place even for an hour, go for a walk, sit-down for a time in the park or in a coffee shop, or soak in a hot bath. This usually means being alone for a time.
As we begin to quiet ourselves, we usually need to allow the voices, the day’s busy-ness, the stresses of the daily activity roll through our minds, our hearts, and then gradually let it slide away. When these things pop back up, let them go again. Rather than getting upset that we keep bringing the stresses back up, allow them there and then release them again, each time allowing it to remain for shorter periods. It will subside if we let it. Remember, these concerns, issues, words spoken, or words left unspoken, may be issues that have already been resolved, may be un-resolvable right now and need setting aside, or may not even be of our business! Listening and reviewing the day can allow us to step back, look at things from a different perspective, and take some or all of the emotion out of an issue. Then give these things to Jesus. He asks for them. “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
During the quiet, take time to look at your personal needs. You may be a parent. You may be homeschooling your children. You may hold a full or part-time job. You may have more than one person you are taking care of. You may be married, single, divorced, going through problems in relationship. All kinds of personal concerns surround us. So time may be of the essence and you may think, “I don’t have time for me, Linda. I cannot even begin to do any more and now you want me to take care of myself.” Well, yes, I do. And I know it well. (When I moved Mama here from California, I worked full-time, had been married only 5 years so still felt like a newlywed! Mama needed help in so many ways. Besides her regular medications, the doctor placed her on insulin within the first year here. Her dementia worsened and giving herself insulin became a problem as she would forget or think she had already given herself the shot. I was running over to her place (in a senior residence) twice a day taking her blood sugar and then giving her a shot. My workplace was 12 miles away. My hours were odd two days a week so I had to teach my husband how to do this too. Bless his heart … imagine talking to your mother-in-law and reminding her to take her blood sugar and then measuring the insulin and handing her the syringe? Not easy, I know! My mother was rather strong headed, too! But it had to be done, and we did it and much, much more!
Well, back to our needs. Time or not, we must find some for our care or we cannot care for others. What do you do for yourself? What do you need for yourself? Do you eat nutritionally? Is there a way to do that better? Are you able to exercise? Can you make time to take a class of aerobics, yoga, Pilates, walk regularly…the type that would make you feel better after it was over? You don’t need more stress and taking a class that you feel is a “should” will not be a help to you. Can you watch a video of yoga or stretching at home to help you relax some? Do you have time for family, for friends? How can you make quality time with the people you love and who love you and care about you? Are there hobbies that help you relax … reading, crocheting, quilting, baking, taking a Bible study? What do you enjoy … riding your bicycle, walking on the beach, visiting others, …? And the most important piece of this pie is to spend time with the LORD…sitting at His feet. You don’t have to talk with Him or do anything in particular. Just sit at His feet. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:39-42
Setting time for enjoyable, relaxing treats is so key to a caregiver’s well-being. Caring for another can zap all of your energy, leaving you lifeless. If we are good at caring for others then we surely must learn to care for ourselves. Begin by making an appointment with yourself, spending time writing down those things that are important to you for your well-being. Once a list is in print, prioritize them either by most important to least, or by the amount of time it takes to do each, or how often you would want to do each. Begin doing one thing on your list. Calendar things in daily, weekly, monthly … make it work for you. If you cannot do anything every day, then begin with weekly or every other day. Gradually, work the most important things into your world so you will feel better. And when you cannot do something, please, PLEASE, do not feel guilty. Guilt is the last thing you need.
You are important! YES! You are IMPORTANT! And caring for yourself is a part of caregiving for others that gets neglected far too easily. How can we be wholly there for others when we can barely be there for ourselves? Take time to begin. Just begin!
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Isaiah 43:2-3a
God tells His people that He will be with us as we walk through the fires of life. Fires burn, but they also purify, refine. Caregiving is not easy. In fact, it is painfully difficult at times, and exhausting. Yet, He is with us and will not let the fires consume us. The waters will not drown us.
Father, hear our prayers. We need You and want You in these times of giving care to others. Father, You are our Shepherd and LORD. Give us the abilities needed for the task. Fill our hearts with Your love so that we may care for those You love, for those who need help, who are unable to do for themselves any longer. Father, guide us in ways to care for ourselves that we would be more able to be the caregiver whom You have called … able to be patient, loving, kind, gentle, and joyful too. May Your fruits of the Spirit shine through us in all that we are and do for others. Father, give us calm and peace, and may we be the Christ in the eyes of these precious ones of Yours. In Jesus’ Name we pray and we love. Amen.