• La Shawn Splane - Wilburn

Caregiver Tool Kit: Spirituality & Self Care – Meditation For Your Mind & Body

Spirituality is one of the most controversial topics for discussion. Many people confuse religion for spirituality and therefore it becomes an argument about who is worshiping in the “proper way”. I come across many caregivers who are skeptical about spirituality especially those who have been part of the religious sector and been tossed out into the darkness once they revealed they themselves struggle with depression or a loved one struggles with psychosis.

Because mental illness carries with it such a huge stigma and people associate hearing voices with a person who is spiritually disturbed, it’s not easy to have a real conversation about the effects of having a spiritual foundation or the importance of spirituality in the recovery from mental illness. A caregiver who is caring for a loved one with schizophrenia may find it difficult to talk about hearing the voice of God or feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit out of fear of being accused of suffering from the very same “ailment of the mind” their love one is. What happens as a result is the caregiver either chooses to stop talking about their spiritual encounters with God or they stop practicing a spiritual life altogether feeling they are unable to decipher when they are hearing the voice of God or their own thoughts.

Studies have shown when a caregiver spends the bulk of their time supporting a love one who may have psychosis as a symptom of their illness they are the majority of the time helping the love one distinguish their voice from those of the thoughts due to the psychosis. I have spoke with caregivers who have become severely depressed because their days are sometimes hard to get through due to the time they spend in and out of the real world with real people and not the people or voices their loved one is hearing.

How Do I Decipher The Voice Of God?

People who have not been acquainted with a spiritual life are unsure how they know the voice of God is there and ask how do you know the difference from your voice and God’s? One of the easiest ways to know Gods voice is:

  • It’s peaceful

  • It doesn’t give you instructions to do destructive things

  • It resonates within your whole body

  • It’s never confusion

A clear sign you are hearing from God is that you are at peace with yourself and that no matter what is going on you are “zened out” . Making decisions gives you peace not conflict, if you are wrestling in your heart and mind with something it is either you don’t want to do it or it’s not the right thing to do. You have to be willing to get honest with yourself.

How Can I Build A Foundation If I Have Never Had One?

You start. You make it part of your daily routine, in fact you make it the very first part of your day, the middle of your day, the end of your day and every opportunity you get to meditate you take it. You immerse yourself in the love of God and you allow it to penetrate your every being, but that takes surrender and it takes practice. It does not happen over night or in one day, at least not always, I have heard of instances when it has happened immediately though.

Just as with our relationships with people it takes time to build and to know the heart of God and to know how much He loves us and desires for us to know, love and accept Him. There is a major difference however, God’s love is not conditional. We don’t have to do anything to earn it, it just is. People can tell you how much of an impact God can have in your life and they can tell you how God’s love has changed their lives but you can only understand and fully experience the peace on your own in your own time.

Religion will have you to believe that you have to have it all together in order for God to speak to you, you can’t have this or be doing that but the truth is we feel God’s love the deepest when we are in the lowest of points.

Prayer and meditation has been used for centuries to bring about peace and to connect with our creator some people call it the universe or connecting to the source, I call mine God and it’s what has made a good deal of my recovery and my supporting my son throughout his recovery possible. Once you decide to make the choice of incorporating meditation and prayer into your daily life you will meet resistance and find it hard to focus at times but don’t allow that to discourage you. Keep practicing and keep including it in your daily life and each time you will get better and able to stay in a place of peace longer.

Personally I get up at 4AM in the morning and I pray and then meditate afterwards. I find that works for me because my house comes alive at 5AM and getting up an hour earlier than my family allows me to have peace and quiet. I feel the effects on my day if I miss meditating and praying that is why I make it a point to get up and do it even when I feel like I don’t want to or I’m tired.

Look up research online that has been performed on those who meditate and the effects of mediation on healing the mind and body. Consider using meditation as part of your caregiver tool kit.

How Can Meditation Help Me In My Role As A Caregiver?

You are already familiar with the effects stress plays in your life if you are a caregiver. As a mental health family caregiver you are aware of the many highs and lows you will experience throughout your day. Many times we are required to have a short memory when it comes to the many verbal assault we can sometimes encounter with our loved one. Reminding ourselves that the illness is responsible for what we are experiencing with our love one takes lots of self-discipline and it is not always possible to have that discipline when we are under the immediate attack of a loved one who is experiencing a negative symptom of their illness.

Meditation gives us caregivers a place to go and find peace when we are unable to escape our current environment, and allows us to find a calm in the midst of chaos. When we wake up and start our day it is the most important part of our day. If we start our day in anger, fear and frustration then that is how the remainder of our day goes. We go from one fire to the next and most times creating our own fires unintentionally by searching for the fires because we have convinced ourselves at the onset of our day there will be plenty fire to fight. There is a saying when you go looking for something you will find it even if its not there. Why? Because we want to find that “thing” and we will not stop until we do, that is the focus we place on ourselves and our spiritual being when we start the day with an “Oh dear Lord what will happen today?” instead of an “I have prepared as much as I can, and what I can handle I will, and what I cannot I will learn from…”

Think of your day today, how did you say it would go when you woke up? Were you right? How did you say your day would go yesterday? Were you right? Understanding the power of our words and the effects our mindset has on our days will help us to make better choices in how we greet our days. Placing a spiritual foundation from which we can work from at the beginning of our day means we are being “proactive” which we have discussed often as a good method of managing our caregiver journey. If we are “preparing” for the day by knowing what we are responsible for doing that day or what our loved one will or may need our assistance with for that day and we do our best to prepare for it, we are removing a great deal of stress from our day. We will not always have a stress free day but we can sure reduce the amount of stress we encounter by being proactive.

I hope you learned something useful that you can add to your Caregiver Tool Kit and empower yourself and your loved one. The best gift you can give to your loved one is your caring for yourself.

If you love and have patience with you first you can extend that to your love one. Many times they are looking to us to see how afraid they should be because the times when they have been out of control they have been able to count on us to help them to get back to a place of calm, even if they won’t admit it. J In actuality you are helping your loved one on their recovery journey more by taking out the time for you because you are a better and well-rounded individual when you are well rested and well cared for. No one is going to take your self-care more serious than you are. If you don’t know one else will.

Make mediation and a part of your day all day and watch the impact it has not only on your life but on those who are around you and those you come into contact with.

May today bless you with whatever makes you successful and may God bless us real good.

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