Whenever I begin teaching a new group of people about Watson’s Human Caring Theory, this comment inevitably arises: “I don’t have any time to add more things to my “to-do” list!” This is a fair comment that requires a straightforward response. The short answer is that Caritas practice is more about who we are than what we do. Establishing a strong Caritas Practice begins with establishing a firm intent to care by first applying the 10 Caritas Processes to yourself, for you cannot give to others what you have not first given yourself. Each Caritas Process invites us to treat ourselves with attentiveness, lovingkindness, compassion, and respect
True and authentic Caring for others naturally flows from self-care. If we do not care for ourselves with honesty and lovingkindness then we will be unable to truly and consistently care for those around us. We cannot give what we do not possess.
We can act in caring ways without first caring for ourselves, but this approach requires a great deal of energy to simultaneously disregard our own needs while placing the needs of others far above our own. I think this is why many people comment that they feel like they are constantly drawing from an empty well and experiencing exhaustion and burnout. We are the only ones who can fill our own caring reserves through cultivation of meaningful introspection/spiritual practice coupled with basic, practical self-care:
· Learn to say “no” with loving resolve when you are tired and overwhelmed.
· Ask for help when needed.
· Eat something healthy when you are hungry. Bring simple healthy food to eat on the run if necessary.
· Drink water when you are thirsty and take regular restroom breaks.
· Pause and belly-breathe 3 conscious inhales and exhales when stressed or entering a new situation.
· Attend to the here and now, moment by moment. Your mind will wander to the past and the future, and you will lose track of the present moment often. Each time this happens, gently guide your mind back to the present moment as you would nudge a busy puppy back towards the safety of its mother.
· Forgive yourself and others continuously, with a firm intent to care and to love yourself, others, and the whole mess of humanity.
Forgiveness is a tricky but essential part of effective self-care. Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody. In recognizing our own shared (and flawed) humanity and then continually forgiving, we make it possible for everyone to feel loved and accepted. I am pretty hard on myself when I make mistakes, and sometimes it's hard to give myself the same love and tenderness that I give to others. If we judge our self then we will reflexively judge others without even being aware of it. Keeping this at the forefront of my thoughts helps me to be kinder to everyone--including me. Forgive and move forward...forgive and move forward...that's one of the many constant rhythms of my daily life.
Find simple, do-able, self-care activities that resonate with you and then make it a priority to consistently engage in them. Carving out 30 minutes each day for self-care is a great idea, but sometimes not possible given heavy schedules and competing time demands. The list I have provided above does not require additional time in the day—it only requires a shift in consciousness towards how you do what you are already doing. If you make that shift, then caring for others will feel less burdensome and you will begin to see new possibilities that were not previously evident.
The image above is free and open and was created by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay