Friday, March 14, 2008

Brief Respite

Another excerpt from The Spiritual Journey of Family Caregiving. Click here to buy it now.

The word “respite” means relief, time out, rest. I spend a lot of my day helping caregivers figure out how to have time for themselves, free of caregiving duties, so they can relax, rest, and renew themselves. Sometimes the people I help have been so tied up with caregiving that the afternoon off I arrange for them is overwhelming at first. They can’t believe their good fortune... and then they don’t know what to do with it.

Caregivers report apologetically that they couldn’t think of anything to do so they took a nap or watched television or just sat and stared at the wall. I always say “Congratulations! People spend millions of dollars on psychotherapy trying to learn to stop working so hard and you did it on the first try!”

We always think that we have to be productive to be good, to be worthwhile, to earn the attention and affection of others. I had a surprising awakening on this subject myself when I made the acquaintance of a counselor visiting the United States from India. She always commented on how busy Americans seemed to be and how their busyness was tied to their feelings of self-esteem. She had taken to asking her American clients to lie down on her couch and do nothing while she stroked their foreheads and told them how valuable to the world they were, how precious they were, just lying there breathing. She would remind them of how deeply lovable they were as infants when they couldn’t do much more than that and how they were still the same precious beings they were when they were born. Her clients would just break down and cry. The concept of being OK just lying still was just so foreign.

Try turning the conditioning around: tell yourself that you are already OK and, like all other human beings, you deserve a day of rest. This used to be a normal concept—a day of rest, Sabbath, Shabbat—and you get to have this even if it’s not Saturday or Sunday.

Still need help? Try these relaxing suggestions:

  • Take a walk
  • Watch a sunset
  • Read a book uninterrupted
  • Rent a video
  • Write a letter
  • Have lunch with a friend
  • Take a bubble bath
  • Sing or dance to your favorite record
  • Take up bird watching
  • Take a class
  • Visit a museum
  • Buy some ice cream
  • Play with your grandkids
  • Play a musical instrument, draw or paint
  • Call a friend
  • Meditate or pray

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