Over eight years ago we brought home our little girl from the NICU. She suffered a severe brain injury when she was born prematurely and her journey includes cerebral palsy, epilepsy, vision impairments, and global developmental and mental delays. It’s a lot. From giving her water using a g-tube to keeping an eye out for falling and seizures, I understand what it means to be the caregiver.
My mother passed away from multiple sclerosis over eight years ago. I watched my dad become her caregiver and the wear on his mind and body was real. It's a common experience for anyone that is a caregiver. I want to have a heart-to-heat with you about these issues and I want to give you some hope. I don’t think you are meant to live in a way that is unhealthy to your body, mind, and soul. So, let's dive into some common challenges caregivers face and how we can address those challenges in a healthy way.
1. The first challenge is time. Caregivers are usually on the schedule of whoever they are watching over. If they aren’t sleeping we aren’t sleeping. If they need to go to the hospital or see the doctor, then that is what we are doing too. And here comes the lie of the enemy that keeps you from fighting for you’re own health: You don’t have the time. But, that isn’t true. For most caregivers there are hours of quiet moments and just being there with those people. There is usually time to do something active like get on a stationary bike or walk in place or do some stretches. We can still get up and make sure we drink enough water or eat an apple instead of a cookie. There is time.
2. I have to not be “on duty” to take care of myself. Caregiving is often so focused on taking care of their loved one, that for some odd reason they think they have nothing left for themselves. I think it is another one of those lies that has the Devil’s stink all over it. Yes, we are empty, pouring ourselves out as we take care of others, but, we don’t have to wait to be “Off duty” to stop and breath, or read a devotional, or listen to music that lifts our soul. If we change that mindset we can start looking for ways to take care of ourselves even while we are watching over others.
3. It is all on our shoulders. This is a heavy, heavy weight. More than anything, it is where a lot of the pressure and stress comes from, the idea that this is all on us and we are doing it alone. Stress epically raises cortisol levels which then messes with many physical areas of our life including weight loss and sleep quality. One of the best decisions I made as Micaela’s mom, was saying yes to respite care. I waited too long. She was over two years old before I decided I needed help, but just knowing that I wasn’t doing it alone made a huge difference. Then, letting other people into our lives like grandparents and teachers has lightened the load significantly. Lastly, God is with us. He hasn’t asked us to care for them perfectly or have all the answers. When we rest in Him we really rest.
Today, if you are a caregiver, I want you to notice you have believed the three lies I mentioned: You don’t have time, you have to be “off duty” to take care of yourself, and it is all on your shoulders. Challenge those thoughts and ask yourself, how is this not true? What am I refusing to do?
Now, before we go today, I want to be honest with you. I struggled with my health physically, mentally, and emotionally for a while. One of the biggest issues was exhaustion. Exhaustion that came from deep in body, mind, and heart. I really did not have the strength to move forward until I broke down those three lies and started to take care of myself even while I was “on duty” and life was chaotic. I invited others into my life and let them shoulder the burdens with me and my husband. So, I want to challenge you to do the little things that bring you peace and rest and honor the precious task God has given you. And then, I want you to pace with courage as you make little changes. Make small and consistent healthy habit changes that you can stick to and then add to over time. You’ll get there.
Whew! I’m so glad I did this episode. If you know a caregiver that needs some direction and encouragement today, I want you to share this episode.
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by Lora Armendariz
You Can Do It!
Do you want to fall out of love with a destructive habit? The first 42 episodes of this podcast are a resource for anyone who wants encouragement and information as they take a six week break from a habit in order to fall out of love with it.