As a caregiver of aging parents, I mistakenly thought that I had to put everyone else’s needs above and before my own. How then, could I truly be a generously giving caregiver when I was not first meeting my own needs? Do you notice something about this verse? It states to love thy neighbor as thyself. For so many years, I had misinterpreted that until God put something inside my head and inside my heart. It says to love your neighbor “as” thyself, not to love your neighbor before or better than yourself! It may seem that loving your neighbor is the first instruction; however, it is in alignment with self-love.
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (King James Version, Matthew 22:36-40)
How can you essentially love another before you truly love yourself? It all starts within yourself.
You know the old saying about putting your oxygen mask first when faced with an emergency. I know, from my experience in caregiving, not only was I not putting on my oxygen mask, I didn’t even know where it was located. In order to be an effective caregiver, you need to lovingly care for yourself, as well. Here are a few how-to tips:
Letting Go of Guilt
I cannot tell you the amount of times I felt guilty when I wanted to or just needed to take care of myself in my role as caregiver. The connotation that I had to be self-sacrificing just seemed to go hand-in-hand with being a caregiver. Now, I know better. I say “better” because it is the perfect word.
Being a better caregiver means taking better care of yourself
- Take care of yourself by taking a break
- Give to others by giving to yourself first
- Love others as you love yourself first
Treat Yourself as You Would Treat Your Best Friend
Watch Your Self-Talk – The next time you want to say something negative or unfavorable to yourself – ask yourself this question: “Would I say that to my best friend when he/she is down?” Chances are the answer is a resounding “No!” You would not talk to your best friend the way you sometimes speak to yourself.
If you want to feel good as a caregiver, you have to feel good about yourself first.
Treat Yourself: Plain and Simple – You do not have to do without, sacrifice or go without in order to be admired, revered or honored as a caregiver. As a matter of fact, you will be an excellent role model for those around you if you treat yourself once-in-a-while.
- Treat yourself to some time off
- Go for a walk in fresh air
- Indulge in a favorite ice cream flavor or one that you haven’t tried yet
- Buy yourself a lil something just because or just for fun
- Make certain to visit with nature
Don’t Look at Asking for Help as a Failure
Learn how to ask before you explode and are seen as demanding
- Learn how to ask for help before you burn out
- Have a discussion with other family members and create a calendar for when you expect to have a much-needed break
And, in the end, give yourself a warm hug knowing that not only are you fulfilling an obligation of family, but that you are doing God’s will as he has chosen you to do. Now, that’s something worth loving about yourself. If God thinks you’re strong enough, then so should you.
What have you done lately for yourself? Please, be generous, and share your ideas with other caregivers so you can be the wonderful contribution that you are…leave a comment and/or a suggestion.