Noble Living, Noble Caring, Noble Dying

Let Go: Simple Self-Care Practices For the Caregiver

Self-care can be a huge issue for the caregiver. Andrea Sherman reminds us that we need to heal ourselves as we try to heal or care for others. Often, we may care for someone for days, weeks, months and even years. But a common side effect of this care is stress or caregiver fatigue or burnout.

As caregivers, we can benefit by incorporating gap practices throughout our day. What do we mean by “gap”? Andrea suggests that we practice self-care regularly throughout our day with simple exercises that all remind us to “let go”. Caregiver stress often comes from holding too tightly to our caring duties. If we learn to take even brief moments to let go, we won’t hit that wall.

Gap Practices for Self-Care

First, we can simply work with our breath. This works well because our breath is always available to us—we don’t need to be be someplace special or to prepare anything in advance. Andrea advises that we consciously focus on our breath. Begin by breathing in, then breathe out, and as we do that we let go.

Alternatively, we can also take time to take three conscious breaths. Stop and take a moment to pay attention to nothing but those breaths. Let go into the final exhale!

Another brief practice is to ask yourself what you need now. Take just a moment to check in and see what will help you let go. Do you need a few minutes in nature, a nutritious snack, or simply a five minute cat-nap?

Or take a few minutes to consciously sip a glass of water. As you do so, think of water’s purifying qualities. Allow yourself to feel the refreshing element of this natural gift. We can also take a water gap by pausing to mindfully wash our hands. Again, feel the sensation of the water as you allow it to cleanse and soothe your hands. As you either sip or rinse, you can think that all the stress and difficulties of your situation are disappearing. Allow yourself to savor this brief elemental experience.

Reflection Question on Self-Care

  • Do you have favorite go-to gap practices that help you to let go? Can you think of something different from the ones mentioned here that you might prefer? Please share your suggestions and experiences with gap practices in the forum!

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Suggested Reading

Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.

Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.

Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.

Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973

Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.

Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005

Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.

Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).

Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.

‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.