On Circles of Care and Caregiving



There are many different ways to talk about circles of care. For this discussion, I'm referring to who and what you care about, and this image doesn't include all possible objects of your care. If you're a botanist, you might have plants in the circle, just outside of yourself.


How would you fill in the circles? For most people, self is in the center, but you might put your partner and/or child in the center. Or plants. You do you.


The Elephant in the Room

The elephant is the difference between what/whom you say you care about most and how you spend your time, energy, and money (and other resources). Let's do this again, and this time according to your lived care—how I would fill in the circles if I watched you and looked at your bank statements for a week.

When you think about/do this exercise, are you surprised by anything? Is there a group surprisingly close to the center or far from the center? Are you in the center? Are your clients or patients too close to the center or not close enough, now that you're considering this? How about your family members? There are no right or wrong answers—only answers that make you think and question what you're doing.


We Are All Caregivers

Caregiving can be defined as doing something for others that they're unable to do for themselves, for whatever reason. Reasons include: the other party is ill, physically unable, developmentally unable, or cognitively unable. For financial advisors, consultants, and many other professionals you can include inability or unwillingness to learn everything they need to know on their own, so they pay for guidance.


This might be an interesting way to think about caregiving for you if what you do for a living is transactional. If you do a job and get paid for it, there might not be much care involved. But if part of your job is to be in a state of care for those you serve, then that makes you a caregiver.


Your habits are another way you can be in a state of care. If you're a vegan, for instance, you're living your care for nonhuman animals. You can have habits that express your care for the environment or humanity (e.g., your giving habits). Perhaps you're in the military, in a state of care for your country or an idea, such as democracy.


Care, like love, is a verb. Care needs to be protected and kept alive. It needs to be fed. It needs attention. It's a habit in itself. It's also an adjective—caring.


On Caregivers and Burnout

When we give care, that care is coming from some place within us. We have it to give. If, however, we're exhausted and have, as they say, given all we can give, we have burned out. This isn't uncommon and fortunately there's a fix for it. That fix is to cultivate habits that keep you filled with the resources you happily and freely give others. Or the resources you grudgingly give to others. Or the resources others take from you (though on some level you're allowing that—you're giving away your resources).


Filling Your Cup is a Learned Skill

When you're feeling exhausted or burned out, it's tempting to think that all you need is a night of good sleep or a vacation. And both might provide a temporary boost. Building your inner resources is something you learn how to do, though, and there's a curriculum that has been studied for decades that can teach you. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is for individuals who are committed to the kind of deep inner work that will pay off for decades to come. It's simple but not easy, as its creator, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn frequently says.


Courage—A Byproduct

Contrary to what some have written, mindfulness isn't about putting on a happy face or about positivity. Its intention isn't to change your relationship to abuse or toxicity so that you can handle it. It changes your relationship to it because it gives you the resources to do something about it. When you're clear about who you are and what you're willing to deal with, and you know how to help yourself, part of helping yourself becomes setting boundaries. Or quitting. Or leaving. Or speaking out. A byproduct of mindfulness is courage. The courage to be in a state of care with yourself.


Join me for 30-minute Drop-ins (no experience necessary),

for any or all of the next 4 WEDNESDAYS at 11am, ET (UTC-4)

Sign up for the MBSR course that starts Wednesday, April 20

Sign up for the Mindfulness for Financial Advisors (MFA) course that starts Thursday, April 21

May ease find you.

mm