A kind word, a thoughtful gesture, or simply looking into someone’s eyes while smiling may be all it takes to let others know they are seen and heard, it shows care and compassion. We all know that, but it really strikes home when we are the recipient.
I experienced this in December when I was hospitalized with COVID-19. I was reminded that it takes a special person with a certain type of heart to be in a helping profession. The nursing assistants who made a difference for me were those who really saw me and provided incredibly intimate care. Simple things like a hot washcloth to wash my face, a toothbrush, lotion for my feet, or a kind word were a gift. In stark contrast were those who came into my room in the middle of the night, flipped on the light and began removing my covers with no warning. It was a harsh shock. I was a task and not a person. It was easy to tell who were the ones able to express the gift of humanity, they made such a difference.
Caregivers Need Care
Expressing care and concern can be healing, but what about when we don’t make an effort to express that deeper level of care for someone? Or when we don’t receive that level of care ourselves? Caregivers need to be seen and cared for as well.
The helping professional or the family caregiver is usually the last person to get support, if they get it at all. For a long time that was my experience. I was that person, giving and doing without recognizing that I needed to take care of myself. As a single mom in grad school, things changed when one day my mentor asked me what I did for relief and for fun. I had no answer.
Take a Deep Breath
How do you answer that question? If your reply is “not enough” or “nothing,” I encourage you to pause, take a deep breath, and consider ways you might practice self-care. Caring for yourself is about doing small, easy things for yourself, so keep it simple. Is there something you enjoy doing that makes you lose track of time? Try doing that or something similar. Maybe listen to calming music, or think of three things you are grateful for. Personally, I find doing something creative has a healing influence on my life.
A surgeon friend of mine practices Zentangle drawings to help her slow down and focus on something other than the frenzied pace of her work life. Engaging in the moment, watching the way the pen or pencil glides across the paper has a calming effect and lets her mind wander. I’m the happy recipient of one of her pieces as shown above. Curious to learn more? Visit the Zentangle website for instructions.
Another idea is to find objects around you and arrange them into a pattern. Begin by placing an item in front of you then adding other elements around it. Casually observe how things relate to each other as you set them in place. It’s surprisingly satisfying. For example, creating this mandala with beans and seeds from my kitchen was wonderfully calming as I laid them out in a repetitive pattern. See our Found Objects Mandala blog post for more examples and instructions
One Step Further in Self-Care
If doing something for yourself at home is a struggle, try taking a local wellness workshop or art class. There are many opportunities in the Twin Cities area for exploring creative self-expression. Give yourself permission to try something new. While I’m an artist and Art Therapist, I sometimes need to give myself permission to divert from my normal routine, and taking a class is a perfect way to do that. For individual attention on a deeper level, contact us at Art Lab Rx to meet with an art therapist.
– Lisa Lounsbury, MA, LMFT, ATR-BC, Executive Director of Art Lab Rx, LLC
Featured Image Artwork Credit: Pamela Bredlow “Comfort”. Used with permission.