Whether you are taking care of a child full time or you have just found yourself leading the charge in the care of your terminally ill parent, caregiving is deeply rewarding and brings profound meaning to your life that cannot come from any other place. But, along with the joys come some realistically painful challenges and sorrows. Caregiving requires all aspects of who you are. It is emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually and relationally engaging (and taxing). Before we can take care of others, we must commit to taking care of ourselves. Making our spiritual health a priority will help us orient our entire being around who Christ is. When we take care of our spiritual health, it positively impacts the other areas of our lives.
Caregiving in the United States
According to a 2015 research report, released by the AARP Public Policy Institute and National Alliance for Care-giving, entitled “Caregiving in the United States 2015,” there are almost 35 million adults in America, providing unpaid, informal care to someone aged 50 years or more and 60% of those caregivers are women.
Therefore, my friend, take comfort, you certainly are not alone!
A Closer Look at Caregiving
When I assumed the caregiving role for my mom in 2014, no one told me the Superwoman cape was sold separately.
Caregiving for my mom is one of my greatest privileges and yet, one of my greatest challenges.
I have watched my parents serve as caregivers for my great grandparents, grandparents and other relatives, my entire childhood and into my adult life. They made it seem almost effortless on most occasions. Little did I know how much they struggled in silence. They never showed the stress or complained but I know they felt it and were deeply affected by it.
We are all familiar with the saying, “You cannot pour out of any empty vessel,” right?
About one year into my mom’s illness, those words become painfully evident in my own life. I was attentive and relentlessly responsive to the needs of others and our circumstances. However, it came at a cost. Over time, I slowly began neglecting the basic needs of my body, mind and spiritual health.
To serve our loved ones well, we must find ways to recharge our bodies and minds while refueling our spirits with TRUTH. Our lives are a God given gift to ourselves and to others to be used for God’s glory and to fulfill His purpose. By becoming good stewards of our bodies, minds and spiritual health, we can love and serve Christ and our community the way that He intended.
Eight Powerful Ways to Improve Your Spiritual Health
Find Your Identity, Love and Value in Who Christ Is
Until we know who Christ is and who He says we are IN Him, we will never truly be able to love and serve others the way God intended us to; not out of obligation but out of unconditional love and devotion for our Heavenly Father. In Christ we are CHOSEN, LOVED, REDEEMED, VICTORIOUS, A TREASURE.
Nourish Your Spirit with Biblical TRUTH
As caregivers, we need to keep our eyes fixed on Christ, not on our circumstances. We must know what He calls us to do in Scripture and how we are commanded to love and serve others in a way that is honoring to Him.
Satan is vigilant in his vicious attacks on our minds and our spirits. He is full of deceit and damaging lies. Commit to learning the TRUTH and allowing it to become “…a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:115). Be intentional with and protective of your quiet time and private prayer time with the Lord. By safeguarding your time with the Lord and His word, you are strengthening your spirit and overall spiritual health.
Positive Self Affirmations
Our thought life and self-talk are powerful. We will become who we tell ourselves that we are.
Are you fueling your mind with life giving affirmations of truth? Or are you living into the lies that the Devil is trying to propagate?
Equip yourself with Scripture. Be ready to trade in Satan’s lies for God’s Holy Truth. Take time to write out biblical affirmations. Say them out loud and carry them with you. The Devil is a cunning opportunist. Be vigilant and prepare your spirit to fight back in Truth.
Create Healthy Boundaries
As a caregiver, it is easy to become stressed out and completely burned out quickly. If we are not careful, we may find ourselves becoming emotionally and physically depleted, bitter, overwhelmed, and even angry with the ones we love and the people we are caring for.
Pay close attention to your emotions and how you feel physically. Your body and mind are important gauges and can serve as critical indicators for the way our caregiving role is affecting our lives. Don’t ignore what your body and mind are trying to tell you.
We must learn to create healthy boundaries. Boundaries protect our spiritual health and priorities that nourish our souls and help us remain in Christ and continue to walk in His ways and in His strength, not our own.
When we overextend ourselves and care for others at our own expense, we become ineffective servants and unjoyful givers. If we look at the life of Jesus, we see a perfect example of how He willingly established boundaries to care for himself and his spiritual health. Pray about your service and know your limitations.
Ask for Help and Learn to Accept It
Stay connected and engaged with friends and loved ones.
Caregiving can sometimes be isolating. Intentionally create a support system for yourself. People want to help but oftentimes do not know how. Realize and Accept that you cannot be responsible for everyone and everything, at all times.
Make a list of small, specific, and actionable things that need to be done or ways that someone can support your physical, emotional or spiritual health. Be honest with your feelings and your needs.
Don’t assume that people can read your mind. Use “I” language to share your feelings in a loving way, without blame or defensiveness. Respect the rights and feelings of others and commit to be a good listener. Your feelings matter and you are entitled to them. But, there is also a right and a wrong way to go about communicating your heart with another.
Be Kind & Extend Grace
Caregiving can be difficult and things will not always go according to your perfectly laid plans. Accept yourself, your efforts, your limitations and even your mistakes. Be kind to yourself and others. Be quick to offer grace and to ask for it in return. Kindness and grace are two powerful ways to strengthen your spirit and safeguard your spiritual health.
Be thankful for your ability to love and serve through your special role as a caregiver.
The caregiving journey brings with it tremendous blessings and hardships. Be grateful for both.
Nothing is wasted in the Kingdom of God and if you invite Him into your circumstances, He will work in you and through you; using the blessings and more importantly the challenges to grow you as a person and deepen your relationship with Christ.
Loving and serving someone in the caregiver role is both an honor and privilege. It is a journey full of extreme highs and lows and many meaningful moments in between. Offering compassionate care to another can become all- consuming. But, it should never be done at the expense of your own spiritual health. Caring effectively for another includes properly caring for yourself: mind, body and spirit.