Jun 27, 2017

Caring for Yourself while Caring for Others

By Rebekah Thielen

“God works through people, in their ordinary stations of life to which He  has called them, to care for His creation.  In this way, He cares for everyone--Christian and non-Christian--whom He has given life.” Gene Edward Veith

Woman Reading on a Settee, William Worchester Churchill

It is vital in our callings as caregivers to respect the fact that we are finite. We need regular times of restoration for our minds, bodies, souls, and morale. It isn’t always possible or practical to completely get away or get a break from our responsibilities. We can, however, create a more sustainable way of life as we learn to weave refreshment and renewal into the fabric of our daily lives. There are many ways to do this, and each woman’s way is going to look different depending on her family, personality, and season of life. Here are ten suggestions to get us thinking on guarding against burnout by fostering inner and outer peace and rest.


1. Consider Cutting Back on Coffee

Please don’t throw your coffee at me for saying this.  I love coffee.  But I’m also realizing that even though coffee has become the cultural power drink of mothers everywhere, it doesn’t necessarily serve as the best fuel for the marathon that is motherhood. Coffee may taste and feel good in the morning, but caffeine can actually end up draining your body of the much needed energy and mental clarity required for the rest of the day. Coffee for me also exacerbates my tendency toward anxiety and increases the sensation of feeling on edge. How we begin our days is important. Try starting the day with a clear and lighter liquid, like water with a bit of lemon juice squeezed in. Carry it around in a mug to sip on whenever you’re thirsty or get a craving for coffee. A half-lemon can usually be squeezed enough times to last an entire day (better the lemon than your adrenal glands). Enjoy a cup of coffee every now and then, but give it a try as the exception, not the rule.

2. Pay Someone to Bag Your Groceries

Consider taking a break from Aldi. It’s true the lemons are significantly cheaper there. If you are blessed to have an Aldi nearby, you know what a difference it makes in your grocery bill. There are times and seasons in life, however, where money may not be the most important thing to save. If you are able to spend a little more money at the closest Schnucks, Wal-Mart, or County Market, do so without the guilt that initially comes when you see the receipt. Thank the Lord for His provisions and thank the baggers and cashiers for their help.

3. Create an Atmosphere

Beauty brings life to the soul, both in the creating, and the beholding. Sally Clarkson, author of The Life-Giving Home, recently wrote on her blog, “Beauty comes about from someone who took the time to craft it, and the crafting adds dimension and pleasure to our lives, even as God did when He created the world in all its splendor.” Have a place in your home that brings you peace and delight simply because of its beauty. It could be an entire room, but even a small corner is all you need. Beauty can be as simple as keeping a yellow daffodil on the table, or a colorful candle burning bright on the piano.

4. Invest in a Dinner Bell

The less you use your voice, the more valuable it becomes. Every shout and repeated announcement or instruction uses up energy, and also causes frustration, which uses even more energy. Communicate well the first time. When breakfast is ready, ring the bell. When lunch is ready, ring the bell. When supper is ready, ring the bell. I don’t want to make promises I have no ability to keep, but I’m going to go out on a limb with this one. The bell will make you happy every time the kids come running, and every time you’ll be amazed, you only had to ring it once.

5. Get Up and Move

Has something like this ever happened to you? You’re sitting on a shaded park bench under a tree, watching your children play and thinking, “Gosh, I wish I had their energy.” Are children active because they have energy, or do children have energy because they are active? It’s probably a confusing physiological combination of both. As aging adults, we aren’t going to have the same energy levels as growing children, but they do have a way of keeping us young. Swing on the monkey bars. Go down the slide. Push a baby in a swing and laugh at how happy she is.

6. Rest When You’re Tired

Nap/quiet time used to pose a daily dilemma. Do I sleep when the baby sleeps, or do I use this time to get something else done? I chose based on what I felt was the more pressing need in the moment. I no longer have a choice. Sometime midday, my body tells me it will go no more until it rests. It depends on the day. Some days I need to take a 20-45 minute nap in the afternoon. Other days I simply need to stop and sit down for an hour or even two. Resting allows me to recuperate from the morning, relax in the afternoon, and recharge for the remaining evening ahead.

7. Use Technology Wisely

There is a time and a place for using technology. If it is neither the time, nor the place, then there’s no need. Good use of technology will serve your neighbor and aid you in your work and relationships, not take away or distract from them. This is the first generation of parents responsible for wading through and managing the incredible amount of addictive technology now available for public consumption. There’s no instruction manual telling us how to do this, and there are no experienced elders to ask for advice. You’re on your own with this one. All I will say is don’t be ignorant and don’t be naive. Discipline starts with your own heart and body. You cannot teach what you do not already know or practice.

8. Adopt a Secret Chore

Take responsibility for a chore nobody else would want or care for. Do it without complaining or grumbling. Don’t expect or hope for anyone to notice or appreciate you for it. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. No chore is too small. At one point, I chose to change the bathroom hand towel every morning. Even if I was unable to accomplish any other noticeable or lasting endeavors that day (besides caring for my children), at least I knew the bathroom hand towel was clean. Work is rewarding: for you, and for your family.

9. Know Your Weaknesses

At certain times of the day or month, I am prone to more negative thoughts and feelings. Guilt, worry, fear, and anger are colossal wastes and misuses of energy. Throw aside these heavy weights. In Christ, God has graciously given us means to release these burdens.  When a troubling thought attacks your mind, or you feel overwhelmed with life in the moment, heed the words of the famous hymn, and “take it to the Lord in prayer.” As baptized children of God we are also called to be self-controlled. Self-control doesn’t ever get easier, but we can become better at it, as we seek to form new habits and rely on the Holy-Spirit, our Helper who helps us in our weaknesses (Romans 8:26). Sometimes it feels like I’m holding back the weight of a freight train. I can’t always control whether or not the surge takes place inside me, but I can control whether or not I stop the train, or whether I allow myself to run somebody over with it. “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” (Ephesians 4:2, NLT).

10. Keep Watch Over the Time

Fighting against the established laws of nature is a surefire way to crash and burn, if not right now, then definitely later. The setting sun is the signal we are nearing the day’s end. Pay attention to signs and signals. If you do stay up late, let it be for a worthwhile reason, such as caring for an infant, soothing a sick child, catching up with a visiting friend, or keeping your spouse company as he drives through the night toward your family vacation destination. Sleep is a priority. Go to bed when you get the chance.

Energy and sanity are precious commodities for a woman. We cannot do it all. We are going to have to make choices on how we spend our time and lives, doing so in a way that builds up our household, considers the needs of all involved (including yours), and allows for the elements that truly matter. Ivanka Trump, in her recent book, Women Who Work, says one of the principles she carries through all aspects of her life is to “work smarter, not harder.” The Holy Spirit-inspired author of Ecclesiastes shares a similar thought, saying, “If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success” (Ecclesiastes 10:10).  Success on this side of heaven is not going to look like success in the world’s eyes. It may, more likely, look like nothing much at all. It will look like faith. 

But ponder this idea of sharpening your axe.  Examine your life and look for areas in your day where you are needlessly extending yourself in a way that is not helpful. Cut out useless spending. Ask your husband or close friends for input or ideas. You may be surprised to find that an idea or suggestion you thought would never work actually works and benefits you. Find camaraderie with women in similar life seasons, but don’t limit yourself only to those who get what your life is like. Some of the greatest advice and encouragement I have ever received has come from people who have lived very different lives from mine. By hearing and listening, we become better equipped to love and care for others in our lives, and likewise, we simultaneously open up a way for others in our lives to love and care for us as well. 


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Rebekah spends her days living life alongside her husband and children. She enjoys reading, homeschooling, and every once in a great while, chasing after the wind. 



2 comments:

  1. This is a wonderful post that has stayed with me over the past few weeks. Especially the idea of secret chores. I don't know exactly why, but going, "this is my secret chore!" makes doing those things that nobody else does or cares about so much more fun.

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  2. Thank you for the excellent suggestions! I have also adopted a secret chore, and I'm absolutely going to invest in a dinner bell. I completely agree with your second suggestion to pay someone else to bag groceries. I used to take my young children with me to the grocery store, which for us is half an hour away. After a good hour at the store stocking up for our family of seven, the kids were at their limit, and so was I! So I started ordering groceries online and doing curbside pickup. So. Much. Easier. I don't even have to take my kids out of the car. We pull up and they load everything into my trunk (for free!). Plus it eliminates impulse buying, so I'm saving money that way. I definitely recommend online ordering. It's been a sanity saver for me.

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