Tips to Help Deep Thinking Caregivers Find Their Sweet Spots

This is the fourth article in a series exploring what puts family caregivers in their “sweet spots” when supporting a family member with special needs. Today we’re looking at some challenges and opportunities for caregivers who think deeply.

Do you have a thirst for knowledge? Do you have a strong capacity to thoughtfully weigh a variety of options when you’re at a crossroads? Perhaps you’re the one in the family who researches therapy and treatment options. Do you have a helpful critical eye when it comes to reviewing details on your child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP)? When someone suggests it’s time to start thinking about guardianship or future planning for your loved one with special needs, are you already two steps ahead starting the file with background information?

I’m a thinker so I can appreciate the tension you may live in. Your thoughtful and pragmatic ideas are of great value to your complex family. But you may have trouble sleeping at night!

Deep thinking people have a wonderful coping tool built right into them by God. Their moods and anxiety can be shifted by their thinking process alone. But that means it’s important to stay on guard about the tone and focus of your thought life. A great motto from scripture for the deep thinker is found in Philippians 4:8, which says:

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

When you are raising a child with disabilities or caring for a loved one with complex needs, there is always plenty to think about. There are decisions to weigh, strategies to plan, causes to support, and perspectives to consider. It’s wonderful to have someone on the caregiving team who has the capacity for keen observation and analysis. You may even be energized by serving the caregiving team through a role of that nature. But you may also feel prone to anxiety if forced to bear this role alone or under pressures of deadlines.

If you’re someone who spends a lot of time “in your head,” try to have some quiet time alone for positive thinking every day. This may feel impossible for a caregiver whose attention is required without interruption. But if you understand how important those few minutes are toward keeping you in your sweet spot, you will prioritize finding a way.

Explain the significance of your need for this kind of intentional quit time to family and caregiving team members. As for help and creative ideas that will allow you to make it happen. Consider a cooperative exchange with someone who can trade responsible times with you so that each of you has opportunity to re-fuel your soul. Let me give you an example from my house. My husband will wrestle with our daughter for a few minutes or snuggle with her on the couch watching a movie so that I can take a break. Then he will do his workout while I give her a shower.

It can be difficult, at times, for deep thinking people to be at peace with themselves, others and even God. You may have high expectations, particularly of yourself. And you may see things clearly in ways that don’t always line up with how others see them. It may help you to meditate periodically on Psalm 51.

To live in your strengths, you will need to learn to make healthy attitude and behavior adjustments by the power of the Holy Spirit.

To stay in your sweet spot, you will also need to learn to deal constructively with anger. Yelling, screaming, hollering, throwing objects, hitting, being passive-aggressive and burying or denying your anger are all destructive responses.

You may find that one of your strengths is that you have the ability to analyze your way through anger. Once you recognize and admit your feelings, you’re able to think through the situation and come to a decision about how you are going to choose to move forward in a positive way. Be on guard, however. The longer you think about the situation, the more vulnerable you may be to becoming depressed, or growing even angrier. Be careful about isolating yourself when you’re angry. Reaching out to a close trusted friend for prayer and processing can help you avoid a negative spiral.

Friend, give yourself and others the right to be imperfect. Forgive yourself and others for mistakes. And talk through your disappointments with God in prayer. Forgiving doesn’t mean you have to move on like nothing ever happened. But it does mean choosing not to harbor negative feelings. Forgiveness and healing often involve a process of choosing, again and again, to forgive until the negative feelings are genuinely resolved.

TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS BY REMEMBERING, OFTEN, THE FAITHFUL WAYS OF GOD

If you tend to think deeply

  • Seek a role on the caregiving team where your keen observation and analytical skills are needed
  • Work toward an adequate balance of work, exercise, diet and relaxation
  • Learn to keep your mind more present in the activities and relationships of the moment (less on past and future)
  • Express appreciation to others frequently and specifically
  • Resist analysis and criticism that can feel discouraging to others
  • Release others and yourself from unreasonable expectations
  • Allow flexibility to work at your own pace whenever possible
  • Learn to slow down, letting your moods and thinking patterns rest with Jesus

Here are some tips if you are someone who tends to be pragmatic and well-reasoned in your thinking

  • Serve your family and caregiving team by contributing to conversations that involve decision-making and strategy planning (e.g., education/vocation transitions, guardianship roles, long term care)
  • Optimize your role as mediator and consensus builder in team discussions
  • Recognize that your passions for “the cause” may become a source of pride or inflexibility
  • Respect the rights, feelings, thoughts and plans of others
  • Help give voice to the value of varied perspectives
  • Learn to rely on Jesus to guide your own values, reasoning and humility

The Bible offers an abundance of help and encouragement for thoughtful people:

Philippians 4:8
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Galatians 5:16
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.

Psalm 94:19
When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.

Proverbs 14:10
Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can fully share its joy.

1 Corinthians 13:12
Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

1 Thessalonians 5:16
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5
We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

Proverbs 3:6
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Lord Jesus, take my mind to a quiet and content place with you. Make a way for me to have a daily routine that includes quiet time to let you fill my mind with truth and encouragement. When my thoughts are racing and my passions are strong, remind me of Your faithfulness. I am tremendously capable of the assignments you give me, only because your Holy Spirit fills me with power and wisdom. Yet I am easily discouraged and often stubborn. Show me how to live. Show me how to serve my family well. Teach me to have reasonable expectations of myself and others. My hope is best placed in You alone. Amen

Feel free to share the “Tap Your Caregiving Strengths” graphics in this article on your social media to encourage others. And tell us in the comments what helps you and your caring family!


Lisa Jamieson

Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, licensed pastoral counsellor and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Together, the Jamiesons founded Walk Right In Ministries in 2008, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families. Lisa is the primary contributor on the www.WalkRightIn.org blog sharing practical and spiritual encouragement for parents and other family members caring for children with health and developmental challenges. She also serves on the Key Ministry writing team where she contributes monthly articles for special needs parents and church leaders. Her personal blog www.lisajamieson.org also provides encouragement for people who find themselves in challenging places.


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Tips for Caregivers Energized by Connectedness

This post is the latest installment in a developing series for caregivers. We’re exploring what helps us find our “sweet spots” in the family that cares for one another amidst the challenges of disability. We hope today’s article encourages you and offers tips that help optimize your strengths.

The life of a caregiver can be socially isolating for a variety of reasons. And limited socialization has unique impact from one person to another. Some people simply don’t need a lot of interaction with people. Others have great need to feel loved, cared for and valued. One person may be grateful for weekly conversations with staff at the therapy clinic. A different person may be satisfied going weeks without so much as a trip to the grocery store or have little need to interact with neighbors while on a walk around the block.

Ultimately, the spectrum is broad and varied in terms of our needs and expressiveness in relationships. But this fact remains. Caregivers who thrive in community but do not experience adequate and consistent connectedness or associations are likely to struggle with energy levels, moodiness, discouragement, anxiety and unfulfilled longings to feel valued.

Here’s the good news! Intentionally cultivating community will keep your spirits refreshed and will energize you to care for your loved ones from a position of strength.

It can be very helpful to understand that not all connectedness or socialization is equal. It is simply not as straightforward as being introverted or extroverted. Our unique needs and capacities for relationships are actually quite complex and nuanced, aren’t they?

Consider these examples and questions:

You may be a caregiver who appreciates generous amounts of solitude but needs to feel seen and known by people.

You could be that person who enjoys getting to know something about almost everyone you meet.

Are you someone who likes to feel some personal connection to your child’s teacher, para, therapists or physicians? Do you know you mail carrier’s first name?

Do you feel deeply the sting of rejection when a relationship is strained? Or do you rather easily move on to a new friendship if a relationship isn’t satisfying?

Are you very selective about who you relate to? Upon walking into a crowded room, do you quickly scan faces to find the people you have interest in connecting with and move quickly past everyone else?

Do you tend to be understated in communication and hope people will intuitively understand you? If you are one of those caregivers who isn’t particularly expressive, you may feel forgotten or sense that someone is taking advantage of you.

As you ponder the nature of your own needs for community and relationships, consider how these tips may help you function from a place of strength.

TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS

If you’re energized by a sense of CASUAL CONNECTEDNESS in your broader community, here are some guiding tips for you:

  • Seek a role on the caregiving team that allows you to be among people as much as possible (e.g., take your loved one to appointments, do the grocery shopping, run errands, go for walks together, attend sporting events such as Special Olympics, volunteer to help with a fundraiser)
  • Identify people willing to connect spontaneously when you’re feeling isolated, lonely or disconnected
  • Listen to talk radio or podcasts if forced to be away from people for long periods of time
  • Put yourself in situations where you can interact with people when performing mundane duties (e.g., talk to a friend on speaker phone)
  • Complete a task before indulging in pleasures
  • Learn to deal with anger constructively and in ways that are pleasing to God

If you are energized by CONNECTING DEEPLY in your close relationships, here are some guiding scriptures and tips for you:

  • Serve your family and caregiving team with frequent expressions of love, affection, appreciation and affirmation
  • Maintain adequate pacing of rest and refreshment
  • Keep fun activities, social dates and respite on the calendar so you can look forward to them on hard days
  • Recognize your tendency to fill life with activities that bring attention to you or make you feel valued
  • Learn to deal with intense emotions constructively and in ways that are pleasing to God
  • Ask questions and learn about what matters to the people you care about
  • Ask God to grow your bond with the person who has extra needs
  • Develop intimacy with Jesus to meet your deepest needs for love and security
  • Learn to experience a tangible sense of God’s nearness though prayer, scripture and worship music when feeling afraid or lonely

The Bible offers our best plumbline and an abundance of help for relationships.

Romans 12:10
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

Proverbs 14:10
Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can fully share its joy.

Colossians 3:23
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

Matthew 5:5
God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.

Ephesians 4:26-27
And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.”
Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 
for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

John 15:13
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Lord Jesus, You created me for community. Even still, relationships are complicated. I am prone to disappointment when it comes to experiencing satisfying community. Search me and know my anxious thoughts. Just as my body needs food to survive, my soul needs to connect with others in meaningful ways. Lead me to grow in connections that matter from a Kingdom perspective. Help me to be intentional, strategic, humble and prayerful about who I associate with and how I develop deeper relationships. Help me to communicate my needs clearly. Show me how to love and encourage others well. In Jesus’ name, I ask you to provide adequate and satisfying community for me and for my family. We need practical help, a sense of inclusion, emotional support and places of belonging. AMEN

At Walk Right In Ministries, we pay close attention to people’s unique needs and capacities for relationships. We understand how important it is for caregivers and families impacted by special needs to cultivate community that is practically helpful and emotionally satisfying. We look to Christian temperament theology in helping families build their “tribe.” If you would like to explore God’s unique imprint on you and grow in intimacy with Him and others, please reach out.


Lisa Jamieson

Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, licensed pastoral counsellor and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Together, the Jamiesons founded Walk Right In Ministries in 2008, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families. Lisa is the primary contributor on the www.WalkRightIn.org blog sharing practical and spiritual encouragement for parents and other family members caring for children with health and developmental challenges. She also serves on the Key Ministry writing team where she contributes monthly articles for special needs parents and church leaders. Her personal blog www.lisajamieson.org also provides encouragement for people who find themselves in challenging places.

Tips for a Task-Oriented Caregiver

The job of a caregiver is never done. Depending on the needs of each unique situation, there may be meals to plan and prepare, tube feedings to do, hygiene supports to provide, toileting and bowel routines to perform, supplies to restock, behaviors to decipher and manage, sleep schedules to implement (and hope the best for!), seizures to monitor, entertainment to arrange, community supports to coordinate, social needs to meet, legal matters to tend, school forms to update (constantly), medical appointments to navigate, medical insurance calls to make, IEPs and assessments to review, safety to ensure and general advocacy to maintain. There is laundry, housekeeping, more laundry and more housekeeping. Add to that matters of self care, soul care and other care. All of this in addition to the usual maintenance of a home, family and job.

Are you breathless with me?

Truly, it takes a community with a fierce divide-and-conquer commitment to each other to maintain the wellbeing of the whole family and its systems. But cultivating and nurturing that community is another project in itself!

Thankfully, some people are “wired” for projects. They actually get energized by putting things in order, finding efficiencies, coordinating team members and checking the lists.

If this describes you, let me just say how admired and valuable you are. I am sure those around you appreciate your essential contributions to caregiving. And I hope they express that to you in satisfying abundance!

Of course, not everybody is given the same temperament or giftings. We all have unique degrees of need for organizing the kitchen junk drawer. Some people will find deep satisfaction in throwing themselves into a project. But if that is not you, rest assured there is something equally valuable about what you have to offer. Your caregiving team is like a body — with many parts, all valuable (1 Corinthians 12:14-27). The person who needs extra care is a valued part of the team too.

The people we care for are definitely not our projects. But the responsibilities involved with caring for them can be right up the alley for people who appreciate having step-by-step processes to work out.

If you are one of those people in your family who tends to enjoy some task-oriented responsibilities, here are some guiding scriptures, tips and a prayer for you.

Proverbs 3:6
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Psalm 127:1
Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.

Philippians 4:8
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS

If you’re energized by task-oriented activities….

  • Serve your family and caregiving team by identifying efficient and caring ways to be involved
  • Consider being the point person on scheduling
  • Delegate relationally demanding aspects of caregiving so that each person on the care team can experience satisfying balance between tasks and people
  • Monitor and maintain lists and records (e.g., emergency contacts, nutritional priorities, finances, healthcare, IEP, social security and/or disability benefits, guardianship, scriptures on disability theology)
  • Create a daily checklist of essential caregiving activities that keep team members focused and motivated (get input from others about a format that will work for them)
  • Have quiet time every day to organize your thoughts
  • Be sensitive about making others feel like they are one of your projects
  • Learn to rely on Jesus for discernment about priorities and what tasks to release

Lord Jesus, thank you for creating me with a unique and important capacity for getting things done. Help me to know when and how to be involved with the tasks of caregiving in my family. Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, to be a humble, strong and cheerful contributor to the caregiving team. Sometimes you call me to do things that feel beyond my ability. In those times, and at all times, teach me to rely on You. AMEN


Lisa Jamieson

Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, licensed pastoral counsellor and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Together, the Jamiesons founded Walk Right In Ministries in 2008, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families. Lisa is the primary contributor on the www.WalkRightIn.org blog sharing practical and spiritual encouragement for parents and other family members caring for children with health and developmental challenges. Her personal blog www.lisajamieson.org also provides encouragement for people who find themselves in challenging places.