Caring for a loved one or client suffering from a debilitating or terminal illness can be distressing. The feeling of distress often coumpounds when there is little hope that your loved one’s suffering will be eased or that his or her condition will improve. The resulting long-term emotional strain can lead you to question the meaning of life and result in spiritual distress.
It is important to recognize that there can be serious implications for your health and relationships if you are not spiritually well. Spiritual wellness does not necessarily relate to religious activities or rituals; rather, spiritual wellness focuses on the activity of adding meaning to your life and to the lives of those for whom you care. In fact, spirituality can serve as a positive coping mechanism as it is associated with better mental health and is linked to less depression. Some researchers also suggest that spirituality might serve as a protective factor against negative health outcomes among caregivers.
Caregiver Wellness: U model
Spiritual wellness is a part of the Caregiver Wellness: U model, a conceptual model that incorporates the movement toward social, psychological, physical, intellectual, spiritual, occupational, and financial wellness, while also incorporating the empowerment and resilience necessary to take charge of your health on a holistic basis. The components are not chronological; rather, they represent collective components. According to the Caregiver Wellness: U model, spiritual wellness incorporates the experience of caring for another to find new meaning in life that can include religion, faith, belief, and self-actualization, each of which has been associated with positive health outcomes.
Are you spiritually well?
Please take this opportunity to evaluate your spiritual wellness. There are five statements; consider each statement openly and honestly. Assign two (2) points if you do not agree with the statement and one (1) point if you somewhat agree; do not assign any points (0) if you agree with the statement.
I have someone with whom I feel comfortable talking about my spiritual needs.
I am able to take time away from caregiving to attend to my spiritual needs (i.e., reading the Bible, going to church, setting aside time for prayer or mediation).
I have an hour or two to myself to pursue personal interests.
I am at peace with myself and my life.
I am satisfied with my level of work, socialization, and volunteerism.
Evaluate your spiritual wellness score
A score of 7 or higher may indicate that you might want to reach out to improve your spiritual base
A score between 4 and 6 may indicate that you are doing OK spiritually
A score between 0 and 3 may indicate that you are spiritually well
Five tips to improve your spiritual wellness
The following are five tips to improve your spiritual wellness as a caregiver:
Tap into your spiritual gifts. Are you aware of your caregiver-related spiritual gifts? If the answer is no, take a moment to jot down the things that you feel you do best and enjoy in your role as a caregiver. One tip is that spiritual gifts are generally described as natural talents or areas in which you excel. Natural talents generally have common themes and are the things that you have loved to do for a lifetime. A majority of people do not have the opportunity to focus on what they do best and therefore might not be aware of their spiritual gifts. Take the time to develop your spiritual gifts—doing so is more important to your success than you might think.
Take time to do what revitalizes you spiritually. Some individuals enjoy going to church or social gatherings, whereas others gain spiritual strength from more private activities like reading or saying a silent prayer. Make sure you take time to recharge spiritually.
Try not to compare your spiritual strengths to those of others. It is important not to compare the spiritual gifts of another with what you are doing. Sometimes caregivers recognize the spiritual gifts of another and wish to possess those gifts rather than being satisfied with their own. Take time to appreciate what you do well and recognize that there is value in what you are doing.
Reach out to someone you trust. If you are experiencing spiritual distress, reach out to someone you trust, like your pastor or a confidant. It is vitally important to have someone you can talk to about how you are feeling. Even after doing so, if your distress is not dissolved, it might be time to seek help from a professional counselor or therapist.
Listen to Caregiver Support Radio: Caregiver Wellness series. Caregivers are encouraged to listen to the Caregiver Wellness: It Is Up to U podcasts. The yearlong series offered on Caregiver Support Radio will explore the nine components of caregiver wellness. The live radio show is free and is held on the last Monday of the month at 11:00 a.m. CST. Please use the following link for a full description of the show and to blog with us on Monday, October 29, at 11:00 a.m., or call in to speak with co-hosts Terrence Green and Dr. Eboni Green toll-free at (877) 904-1575.
Remember that being healthy spiritually can add meaning and satisfaction to your life, so be diligent in nurturing your spirituality.