If you could design the perfect retreat for stressed out caregivers -- a place which was nurturing, and inherently a place of healing -- providing both a quiet respite and tools for coping with burnout and stress -- what would it look like? What features would be most important to you? Would it be close to the ocean or water body of some kind? In the mountains? In a peaceful, rural setting? With acres of forest to walk and lose yourself in natural beauty?
I am not just asking random questions here, but rather shaping an idea, a concept, for just such a retreat. I envision a place where you can completely disconnect from all demands on you -- where there is silence, if that is what you need - without the endless chatter and background noise of TV and radio, but instead, there is soothing, peaceful, de-stressing music available. There would be plenty of natural settings, lots of open space, a chance to be with others or be solitary according to your needs and wishes. There would be time for stargazing, wool-gathering, sitting fireside or poolside according to season.
There would be tailored programs to teach about various proven stress reduction techniques such as yoga, Tai Chi, massage, meditation & relaxation. There would be information and practical tips as to how your diet can support your health (and by extension, that of your loved one for whom you are caring).
There would be gardens growing the plants for these healthy foods (envision blueberries, pomegranates, walnuts, tumeric, lavender, sunflowers, and other antioxidant fruits, seeds, herbs and spices.) You could participate in the gardening if you feel drawn to immerse yourself in that special timeless therapy of nurturing growing plants and getting your hands in the soil.
There would be a counselor on hand -- skilled in helping people reduce stress and find empowerment and clarity. Does this place sound like a perfect Paradise to you? Me, too!
I am currently designing this retreat for Caregivers seeking a chance to renew themselves, learn specific helpful stress relief techniques, exercises, and develop the skills needed to nourish themselves, body, mind & spirit -- to support optimum health and inner peace as they accomplish their caregiving in the most joyful way possible. I would love your input and ideas. It is my desire to make this accessible, not a five-star resort, but more a comforting, cozy, peaceful retreat, available to those who most need it. Please leave your feedback and share your own vision for such a place that it can inform and inspire. This place is for you, the caregiver, and with the right sense of purpose and filling the need, it will become reality. Soon. It's actually there already, just awaiting the foundations under the dream.
When I was in the midst of stressful times in caring for my Mom, I often thought about the various things that were at my disposal to help relieve feelings of overwhelm, sadness, uncertainty, things spinning out of control (in a figurative sense) and exhaustion from lack of sleep. There were many tools available, since I was already a student of yoga and meditation, learned Tai Chi, had been a musician most of my life specialized in quiet, relaxation music and breath work techniques and read widely from many excellent authors who taught stress relief techniques. However, the operative word is that I thought about them -- I didn't actually use them. Big difference! Looking back on how bad I felt, this is a mystifying thing to me -- almost as if I deliberately sabotaged myself by ignoring the things I knew would be most helpful & healing. My excuse was (valid, or at least it seemed so to me at the time) that I was too tired and lacked the energy to do these things, but I knew in the depths of my being that these practices would alleviate the negative feelings and both calm and energize me. Yet I still didn't apply my knowledge. Even when I heard from others how vitally important it is to keep yourself well, balanced, healthy, whole. I still crashed and burned out. I'm wondering how many others are feeling the same way? What would be the catalyst that would set you in motion toward better self care? Would words alone do it? An intervention by a friend or family member? A heart attack or other serious health challenge?
Today I was shocked to read in one of the online Care newsletters about caregivers who actually reached a breaking point and snapped, killing either their loved one and/or themselves. The tragedy and pain of that prompted a very deep, visceral response in me, along with the strong desire to reach out to help anyone in that desperate, frightening place on the edge of reason. While I am not a professional psychologist, nor do I have any credentials in that area, I do have good instincts, a great deal of caregiving experience and a compassionate nature with a desire to help others going through the same long, confusing journey.
If you find yourself just needing a sympathic "ear", a bit of direction in finding access to the help you need or know of someone else struggling with issues surrounding care of their loved one, please get in touch or give them contact information for this site so that they can begin to connect to the help and resources they need. There is so very much information on the internet that it can be overwhelming, not to mention extremely time consuming to find it and evaluate it. That's one reason I created this blog and website -- as a service to help identify and define the best resources, cull out the time wasters, and direct others to new resources and information thereby saving them time and frustration in the process.
Karen is a compassionate, enthusiastic student of life, who cared for her mother for 17 years. She brings her insights, compassion, experience and desire to share knowledge and healing to this ongoing conversation with others on the caregiving path. If you are caring for a parent, spouse, friend or other loved one this site offers sanity-saving tips, open-hearted self-care ideas, and an open forum for discussion, connection and sharing resources for the journey.
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