Relief for the Caregiver: Rediscovering the Art of Play


By LH White


There are very few of us that can say they have never held the role of a care giver.  Whether it be a parent, child, spouse, friend, etc. at one time or another many of us have had to take the responsibility of round the clock supervision and care, and yet, very little is said about caring for the one who gives of themselves to others.  Only now are we beginning to see the effects in the long term when caregivers face burnout, frustration, depression, and even resentment and anger towards those whose care they have been charged with.  It is not surprising really; those who do this give of themselves for the benefit of another for so long, and in doing so they deny the most essential part of their work – making sure the caregiver is cared for themselves. 


We become so focused on meeting the needs, getting through the day, putting out yet another fire, that we are not really “present” for the work that we do, or the life that we lead.  We are almost automated in our responses and actions; to be otherwise would take energy, time or resources that we claim we do not have.  The reality is this:  we are better at whatever we do, regardless of the career or pursuit, when we are fully engaged in it, rather than passing the time so we can complete the task at hand.  In order to do this though, we need to relearn one of the most essential skills in life – how to play.


The word ‘play’ has a different meaning to every person, but there is one constant – what we term as ‘play’ is never done enough in our lives and it is something that we enjoy so much, it is almost regarded as a ‘sin’ (for lack of a better word).  This is because somewhere along the line we formed the thinking that it was bad to enjoy oneself, that we are selfish and self serving if we do what we love.  Well yeah it is selfish and it IS self serving – so what?  If you don’t take some time to indulge yourself once in awhile, then I can guarantee you that it wont be long until you have a personal meltdown on your hands. 


So we are faced with a choice: we either re-teach ourselves how to play, or we continue on our way, our lives perhaps getting stale in the process.  Fun is not defined the same way by any two individuals, it might be similar, but never matches.  So if you are like me, you have to draw up a “game plan” before you embark on a new project.  Here is what I came up with for learning how to play.


What can I do to re-teach myself how to play?


  1. Set aside 5 minutes every day to read a humorous story or joke.
  2. Take my child (niece, nephew, friend’s child) out to their favorite place – then let them be the “leader” in having fun.
  3. Eat dessert before your main course – or don’t eat your main course at all!
  4. Go to a show/concert/movie that you know you will enjoy, but never thought you would have time for.
  5. Begin a fun project that is for you and you alone.  It could be crocheting, painting, jewelry making, antique hunting – anything creative and inventive.  Creativity is too often shunned and ignored, and we allow ourselves to become imbalanced when we over analyze and over intellectualize.  One feeds the other in a positive and productive way.
  6. Go out into your yard, forest, or any where outdoors that you feel drawn to.  Sit quietly, with your eyes closed and ask the fae to help you in your quest to learn how to have fun.  It might be in the form of a snippet to a song, or perhaps an urge for that ice cream sundae that makes your mouth water.  Or, even more exciting, you find a slow smile spreading across your face, laughter bubbling up within the deepest part of you, until finally you can no longer hold it in!  And why SHOULD you hold it in?  Let it flow – accept the wonderful gift the fae offer to you.


When you leave your spot, be sure to leave a gift in return, to thank your new friends for their help.  I’ll guarantee you that even if it is a softly sung tune, they will love it, because it comes from your heart!


  1. Keep a journal of these fun things that you “give yourself permission” to enjoy.  This is your book of remembrance, for those times when having fun seems so unlikely and impossible.



I am sure that you can come up with so many other ways to have fun.  Make no mistake though; it is a serious commitment to yourself that will take time and effort (in the beginning).  I have heard that it takes upwards of three weeks to make or break a habit; so consistency is a must.


Think that is too much structure for you?  It might at first, until you get into the swing of things, then you will find that you look forward to your “you” time.  It is even refreshing to sit and do nothing for a few minutes everyday.  If you realize that you during that time you are working out situations in your mind, or attempting to do something during your relaxation time, simply gently remind yourself, “This can wait.  Right now I am having my ‘nothing’ time.”  Eventually you will catch on and having fun will come more naturally to you.


You know, you can have fun even when you are working, right?  What I mean by that is you can decide to not just “get through” the day, but to really pay close attention to the work that you do, regardless of what it may be.  Think your job is not exciting? Well everyone feels that way at some point, regardless of whether they are a jet setting financier or a stay at home mom.  It’s all about how you view what you do.  Begin to realize that what you do IS important and HOW you do it even more so.  When you have employment related goals, I think it causes us to be a little less tunnel visioned; we want to succeed and impact others with what we do, and what decisions we make.  It is also essential to know that you are not a ‘cog in the wheel’ but rather a very important, necessary, and intricate part to a whole.  However, (can you hear that “but” hanging in the air?) to be blunt, you are the “boss” of your thoughts and emotions, and any attitude you bring to your work is your choice alone.  Should you wear the blue socks or the red?  Have a pleasant demeanor or a sour one?  It all comes down to one thing:


The power of choice.


O.K., so where was that fun I was talking about?  You tell me!  It’s different for everyone, but I will share with you one way I choose to have my fun when I work.


I once saw these silly little yellow smiley faced bendable characters – called “Bendys” in a local bookstore.  I bought several of the two types they had – the “nice” Bendy and the “evil” one (complete with a devilish grin and horns mind you.)  I passed them out to some co-workers and kept an Evil Bendy on my desk.  It ended up being a huge hit and people from other departments stopped by to see the newest “additions” to the staff.  One day, I found my Bendy with a tin foil hat and French bikini on it, another day it had a miniature company name tag.  Nothing major, but it served to bring smiles, as well as improve morale.  Recently, my husband (while we were at that same bookstore) pointed out a new member of the Bendy family – Pirate Bendy!  He came complete with a wooden peg leg, a patch and a parrot perched on his shoulder – I KNEW that he had to be mine!  He now sits proudly on my desk at work, and not a day goes by that someone isn’t playing with him.


That is an example of how I choose to have fun at work and yet I can still be very productive.  By allowing myself to personalize my work area, even  in that small way, gives me great satisfaction, and sends a message to others that I can be serious about the work I do, but not be so serious that I can’t laugh at myself.  I try to take time to recognize the wonderful job that each of the staff member’s do by paying attention to detail.  Sounds strange, but giving someone a card on their birthday,  giving out silly valentines, or even filling the community candy dish with something they particularly like is to me, paying attention to detail.  How you have fun is up to you; it’s as intensely personal as our preferences in a mate.  Heck, why not “romance” your sense of fun!  You’ll never know until you give it a try!


When your work involves caring for others, you can show your sense of fun and flair in how you dress; accessories perhaps if you are required to wear a uniform, even a special scent that you associate with being relaxed and happy.  Bring a book to work to unwind when you are at your lunch break.  And, if need be, take your lunch outside of your place of employment.  It is surprising what a change in the environment will do for you.  The energy vibrations most definitely differ from building to building and from inside to outside.  Take advantage of that – let your body (in all of its forms) breathe.  Even if it’s eating lunch in your car with the radio one, it’s a space that you can control.  Turn up the radio and enjoy your food!  And should you get caught singing, smile and wave at the person – the mood will be infectious!!!