Caregiving is hard work, no question. But there are also incredibly special, richly rewarding moments to be experienced in this role, as it is a gift of love from one human being to another. I'm going to propose something you may initially resist--giving thanks. Yes, I can hear your protest (accompanied by an eye rolling sigh of exasperation, perhaps?) as you say, "You've got to be kidding! What do I have to be thankful for????" Well, I'm going to ask you to answer that very question. In detail. In writing. Daily.
This is not a new idea, as many of the great masters throughout the ages have known and shared the power of gratitude. German theologian and philosopher Meister Eckhart even went so far as to say, "If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'Thank You', that would suffice."
You can keep it very simple. Author Sarah Ban Breathnach, in her landmark book Simple Abundance: a Daybook of Comfort and Joy listed gratitude as the first & most important skill needed-- bedrock of the path to creating simple abundance and excavating the authentic self. She suggests creating a Gratitude Journal to record five things for which you are grateful every night, as you go to bed. I've used this tool and found it very helpful in shifting my focus from what I may feel I'm lacking, to what I already have. It is not easy, sometimes, to find even five things for which to offer thanks, when you are enduring the grueling demands of a family caregiver, but if you can open your heart to listen for the whispers of gratitude, you will find it can shift your perspective more powerfully and surely than almost anything else you can do. The shift in focus from negative, exhausted, lacking, hopeless to positive, possibility, contentment and even quiet joy can happen in an instant. It requires your willingness to reexamine life and let the light of gratitude shine in. If you are willing, really amazing, even miraculous things can happen. Try using a Gratitude Journal for a fixed period of time -- say one month. Let your conscious mind be open to a change to a happier outlook. There are always things in your life for which to be grateful. I had a short list that I fell back upon when my tired mind couldn't conjure anything else. Here it is: a loving husband and soulmate, my wonderful friends, my health, hot showers, my purring cats. Those were my constants. If nothing else, you can be grateful that a day is over and you get to rest!
If you can carve out more than five minutes, start a Gratitude Master List. I came up with over 150 things for which I am grateful, in no time at all. It really does shift your thinking and "being" into a much better place. Really. Try it for yourself.
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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