Mindfulness is a WAKE UP CALL
There have been a few times in my personal life that I have experienced a wake up call. There was a time when I was 15 years old, I rode my bike across a busy street in front of a bus and nearly got hit. When I left my home country to marry my sweetheart. Then there was the time when I held my firstborn son in my arms. It just happened to also be my birthday and our 2nd wedding anniversary. At each of these moments I experienced a ‘wake up call’ in some version.
I recently had another one.
It was a great idea. In an effort to keep realistic about parenting a child with a disability we attended a seminar titled, ‘Supporting the Pediatric Caregiver’. It was on a Monday during my lunch break and we sat in a large conference room in our local rehabilitation hospital where Jack receives weekly therapies.
What I learned that day was a technique called ‘Mindfulness Based Stress Relief’. I’ll come back to this in a little, but what smacked me in the face like a truck was the following:
Parent’s who have children with disabilities can and do experience ‘Compassion Fatigue’. It ‘s a vicarious experience of cumulative trauma resulting in increased tension, preoccupation with the trauma, feelings of hopelessness, anxiety and even decreased compassion.
It is a very subtle beast. You are exhausted and honestly have reduced empathy for others. You become more irritable and it effects your job, intimacy and emotions.
Any other parent who has a kid with a disability that keeps them alert 24/7 having a wake up call like I did?
That’s not all. There have even been medical studies to show biomarkers of caregiving. These include prolonged increased adrenaline, gastrointestinal and upper respiratory problems.
So after all this ‘shock and awe’ of information bombarded me, the lesson then moved onto being mindful of the state that you’re in and being aware of it so that you can take a deep breath, a time-out and be more calm about the situation or choose to deal with the situation later. This process is designed to help you think and come out with an understanding of what the ‘actual experience’ is versus your ‘interpretation or elaboration’ is of what you are experiencing.
There is a strong, legitimate case by some brilliant doctors, to support such a mechanism for coping with being a parent-caregiver.
Yet, I would like to take it one step further…to the Bible.
Principle #1 – God has not left us alone, listens and answers. (Psalm 34:4-7)
4I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.
He freed me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
6 In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened;
he saved me from all my troubles.
7 For the angel of the Lord is a guard;
he surrounds and defends all who fear him.
Principle #2 – God actively gets engaged in our situations. (Psalm 34:15-18)
15 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right;
his ears are open to their cries for help.
16 But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil;
he will erase their memory from the earth.
17 The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help.
He rescues them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
Principle #3 – God doesn’t promise an easy life … but He does commit to protecting and fighting for His own. (Psalm 34:19-22)
19 The righteous person faces many troubles,
but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.
20 For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous;
not one of them is broken!
21 Calamity will surely destroy the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be punished.
22 But the Lord will redeem those who serve him.
No one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.
My encouragement to you this week…Be Mindful! Be aware of the the situation that you are in and the struggles that you may or may not be suppressing.
As caregivers, if we don’t take care of ourselves, then we are not helping anyone…because we will burnout and be useless.
Credits: Dr. Mary Brownsberger, PSy.D., ABPP / Dr. Kabat Zinn / bible References: New Living Translation / Studies: Seltzer et al, 2009 NIH Public Access