When Shaina Purser’s husband returned home from his many deployments in the Middle East during his 12 years as an Army flight paramedic, she began noticing something was off. Finding Hope For The Warriors and its many resources gave her and her family the necessary support and resources to navigate the transition from military to civilian life, while discovering and understanding the invisible injuries of war that her husband sustained.
Today, Shaina is working to support her fellow military families by pursing her Master of Social Work at the University of Southern California. Shaina is a wife, a mom, a caregiver, a volunteer, and a full-time graduate student completing both schoolwork and field placement.
How does she manage? Shaina shares all her tips and words of wisdom below!
Take time to understand yourself.
I find strength in knowing my weaknesses. I think that taking time to understand yourself is imperative in maneuvering through the chaos (or life in general). This has allowed me to move through my schedule as best I can and to plan appropriately. I’m a firm believer that we can’t always do everything right and we can’t be perfect, even if we want to be. This is when self-forgiveness and self-care become so important to our well-being.
I’m sure many caregivers can agree that no two weeks are the same. Each week carries a unique set of events and challenges. Weekdays generally begin around 6 AM. After getting my daughter ready for school and dropping her off, I am prepared for the rest of my day. I am fortunate in that the majority of my work and classwork can be completed at home. A lot of my day takes place within my home “office.” In keeping office hours, I can better organize my school and internship responsibilities.
Around 3 PM I pick up my daughter from school. Some days she may have a therapist joining us at home. I am involved in much of her therapy to ensure success in her progress and development. Many of my classes are in the evening, and I plan around this so that I can participate in class.
Some days, I have class until 9 PM. On these days, I use the 30-40 minute break in between sessions to get my kiddo ready for bed. I go back into class, and by the time it is done, I am ready for bed! As part of my program, I am required to meet with supervisors at least once per week. I also meet with classmates for group projects as well as contacts for the Veteran Summit. I try and schedule these meetings into the earlier part of the day when my daughter is in school. Sometimes, this is not feasible, so I work around this as best I can!
Self-care is critical. I know that this has become a topic that we discuss a lot; however, self-care does not always entail lighting a candle and practicing yoga. Self-care is unique to each of us. My version isn’t going to offer the same benefits to another person and vice versa. Allowing myself time to perform self-care, even when I have hundreds of other things that I need to do enables me to keep going. As they say…. work hard, play hard.
One of my personal favorite ways to practice self-care is to attend virtual Caregiver Coffee Talks in the HOPE Caregiver Resource Hub. The coffee talks offer an opportunity to continue engaging with other caregivers as well as learn more about the commonalities I share with other folks. I have enjoyed the education provided by PsychArmor Institute through the coffee talks and I have found many of these modules to be pertinent to my situation. I continue to have “wow” moments when I find out that I am not the only one who is experiencing a particular obstacle. Overall, the Caregiver Resource Hub has been an ongoing source of continued connection and growth.
Giving yourself grace is one of the hardest things to do. As an adult, as a mom, as a wife, and as a caregiver, we have many expectations for ourselves. We also offer ourselves very little room for mistakes. Having experienced the difficulty first-hand, I know how hard it is to apply grace in action, especially when you feel like you’re unraveling. My tip is to give yourself the kindness that you often give others. The compassion you would give to your best friend when you see her breakdown. If you’re like me, you might be more critical of yourself than others. We’ll cut others some slack but won’t cut ourselves any slack at all. We were born to be real, not to be perfect.
Shaina is quick to share with other caregivers her tips for success while juggling many roles, as well as one of her favorite quotes, “It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it.” — Lou Holtz
To engage with Shaina and over 300 inspiring caregivers like her, join HOPE’s Caregiver Resource Hub. To learn more, apply for services at www.hopeforthewarriors.org.