I have the privilege of serving the disability community through my professional career. I love what I do. I recently had the opportunity to celebrate the birthday of one my clients. We invited a few kids from his social skills club and hosted a Godzilla themed party. It was awesome! We had about a dozen kids there, six of whom were on the Autism spectrum. It was loud, it was hectic, but it was so much fun!
At the party, I struck up a conversation with a nice woman who also serves the disability community. We chatted about our shared love for California and our careers. Then she told me about her parents, aunt, and uncle. Each of them had previously worked in the disability field and at some point, all of them burnt out needing a career change. As I started to count the hours in my work week, my heart beat faster, and I started freaking out. What if I burn out? What if I need a career change at some point? Then she asked me something that had already been on my heart for quite a while… “What do you do to recharge?” I gave her my rehearsed answer— “I have church, and I read.”
Truthfully, this question had been on my mind for a while. I work 60+ hours every week caring for the needs of others. Like I said, I love what I do – it’s easy for me to pour myself into my work. I rarely go out, and if I do it’s because I’m working whatever event I’m at. My coworkers say I’m in a box. I kinda like my box, though. I get home from work, eat dinner (sometimes), watch some YouTube or TV, and get ready for the next day. There’s little room for variation in my schedule. But, is this “recharging?” If you ask my coworkers, probably not. Where do the manicures and pedicures come in? The rest and relaxation? The quality time with friends and family? They don’t, and that’s a problem.
I believe that caregivers often get so caught up advocating and caring for the people we serve that we sometimes forget to care for ourselves (I’m definitely guilty of this). We care so much for our clients and their needs that we forget about our own. Or, maybe it’s just me and my comfy little box. Either way it’s important to take time to care for ourselves and to take a Sabbath. Sabbath doesn’t have to mean sleeping all day, unless that’s what you want. It’s setting time aside for yourself—whether it’s to read your favorite book or get your nails done. A Sabbath doesn’t have to be Sunday. It can be Wednesday if you choose. Just remember that you can’t properly care for your others if you don’t properly care for yourself. And on that note, I’ll end this post with a promise to care for myself more; to make sure I’m spiritually, emotionally, and physically sound.
Are you a caretaker? How do you recharge and care for yourself?
Krysten Cooper is a full-time caregiver serving families affected by disability. She is passionate about the work that she does and the individuals she serves on a daily basis.