On November 17th, the Lesley Center for the Adult Learner hosted a conversation at University Hall on the subject of “Caring for Caregivers.” The discussion was led by Julianne Corey, Assistant Director of Academic Advising for LCAL, and Dr. Heather Macdonald, a clinical psychologist who is also an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Applied Therapies at Lesley.
The event focused on several important topics: developing strategies for noticing when your own well-being is in need of attention; and learning to identify opportunities and resources for self-care and rejuvenation. While caregivers are expected to devote all their time to taking care of the needs others, it is important for them not to neglect their own health. As Professor Macdonald explained, “Self-care begins as a self awareness of when one is out of balance in the physical, emotional or relational realms of life. A kind of listening to those smaller voices that tend to get shut out in the business of our daily lives.”
This resonated with me. Too often, professional caregivers prioritize the needs of their clients above and beyond their own individual needs; this can lead to serious issues, including exhaustion and even depression. But our culture does not always encourage care-givers to seek help when things become overwhelming, and they are not taught how to develop effective coping mechanisms. That is why I found this presentation so useful.
I was already familiar with Professor Macdonald because I took her Cross-Cultural Psychology course a year ago, and I learned a lot. As a third year Psychology major, I was very pleased that I could sit in a small, more intimate group setting and gain new perspectives. Those of us who attended the discussion not only learned techniques for identifying and combating stress; we were also able to ask questions, and even contribute our own insights and opinions.
My one regret is that the session was poorly attended. Only a handful of students were in the room, and a few more joined us online. I have been told that this is the first in a series of discussions the LCAL staff plans to host for students and faculty; and while I commend the organizers for making so much professional expertise available to us, I do hope there is a way to more effectively promote these kinds of conversations in the future, so that more people can benefit from them the way I did. In fact, the chief reason why I wrote this piece was to help generate a larger audience for LCAL’s upcoming events.