Tend to Your Soul

Omar Reda, MD

The recent Disney Pixar film has a doctor contemplating what makes us all unique, and how we can care for ourselves.

I have, maybe even more than my children, thoroughly enjoyed watching the Pixar Animation Studios’ film Soul. Per Disney, “Soul is what makes you…YOU.” Soul is not only about finding your own passion, but also helping others find theirs.

Soul is a mysterious concept. It is more than just our heart, psyche, or spirit; it is the deepest and most intimate part of who we are. Soul is what makes us humans.

The year 2020 launched a brutal attack on our souls. The invisible scars of moral fatigue and the soul ache we are left with are constant reminders that caring comes at a cost. That is why, as a caregiver, I urge you to tend to your soul.

Find out what makes your soul sink. This can be unhealthy coping styles, unhelpful beliefs, and dysfunctional behaviors. Many caregivers act as if their feelings do not matter, as if they should ignore their needs, deny their pain, brush off their trauma, wipe away their tears, and just get up and keep going. The culture of caregiving is rampant with dark secrets, toxic stress, and silent suffering.

But that does not have to be the case. Caregiving can and should bring joy, not only pain. It brings joy when we look for and celebrate what makes our soul sing. This can include selfcare, social bonding, and engaging in deep kindness. I found family, faith, practicing gratitude, and performing acts of service to be extremely helpful in nursing my wounds and healing my compassion fatigue. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to show more appreciation to my loved ones and the things I take for granted, and to engage in activities that help people find meaning, healing, closure, and beauty.

My request for you is to do the same. Practice love, mend broken hearts, speak up for the voiceless, bring people out of the shadows, listen to the suffering behind closed doors, but also make sure that you tend to your soul.

Dr Reda is a practicing psychiatrist in Providence Healthcare System, Portland, OR.