flexibility

One of the biggest challenges we face when we’re actively taking care of someone is finding ways, amidst the enormity of this task, to take care of ourselves. I can recall a period of time when I was helping support my mother through her final stages of cancer, while also caring for my two toddlers. When I’d hear people talk about taking time for workouts at the gym, or yoga classes, or trips to the spa—a part of me would feel happy for them, but another part of me would want to slug them out of jealousy and exhaustion.

It’s difficult when the forms of self-care we’ve come to know and love are stripped away as possibilities. I’ve learned, though, that by bringing flexibility to the table, often self-care is still possible—we just have to become more creative in how we make it happen. It helps considerably if we’re willing to engage in mini-doses of the activities we enjoy. There might not be time for an hour walk, but a fifteen minute walk around the block is worth something—as are two minutes of stretching, or ten minutes of napping, or thirty seconds of prayer. When we’re actively offering care, our self-care efforts may need to shrink down to appetizer portions, and yet engaging in these activities in small doses is far better than not engaging in them at all.

There are also gifts that come from learning to adjust and adapt to our circumstances without giving up on our care altogether. When I think back to my experience of active caregiving, I’m aware that I gained more flexibility during those months than across the rest of the 22 years I’ve practiced yoga. And it seems this was an especially important sort of flexibility, in the larger perspective of my life.

Karen Horneffer-Ginter has been practicing psychology and teaching yoga and contemplative practices for over 16 years. She has also taught graduate students and health care professionals, along with directing a university-based holistic health care program, and co-founding the Center for Psychotherapy and Wellness in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The aim of Karen's work is to reconnect people with the wisdom of their inner-life by reclaiming what gets lost amidst the busyness of day-to-day life: qualities such as stillness, self-care, creativity, joy, humor, gratitude, and compassion. Her intention is to support people in finding a sense of balance and sacredness in their lives.

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