Most people identify with the word caregiver in some way or another. The word itself evokes images of devoted children taking care of elderly parents. Some identify it with parents or more commonly, parents of children with special needs. Others think of paid professionals who come to the home or work in skilled nursing facilities. There are a few who see the word as a description of those who care for rescued animals and still others who think of environmental warriors attempting to care for our big beautiful planet and all the living beings both plant and animal that reside here. Some immediately think of doctors, nurses and therapists. All of these are correct. They are all caregivers.
What I find interesting, however, is that no one realizes that we are all caregivers. It doesn’t matter if we have someone else or something else to take care of. Our primary responsibility is to take care of ourselves. In order to function in the world even on a primitive level, we must care for ourselves first.
Our ancestors spent a great deal of time focusing on food, shelter, and safety. Today we take most of those things for granted in this country. But we still must care for ourselves if we are to step forward and share our gifts and talents with others. We cannot be expected to care for anyone or anything else if we cannot care for us. When our energy becomes depleted, we become tired, sick, depressed. How are we to take care of anyone else when that happens? How effective can we be? What contributions can we make when we are exhausted or ill? What light can we shine in the world when we are angry, resentful, and feeling lost?
Taking care of you goes far beyond basic needs. It encompasses mind, body, and spirit. It means allowing yourself to get plenty of rest, to eat healthy food to keep your body energized, to set aside time for introspection, prayer, or meditation. It means doing things and being with people who make your heart sing with joy. Taking care of you in whatever ways you require should be your number one priority.
So next time you hear the word caregiver, think of yourself. Be your own caregiver first. Love and appreciate you. Then step out into the world and share your time and attention with others.