Listening to the news, no matter what channel, often portrays the opposite of selflessness. With crime and war being reported around the clock, political slandering of one candidate or another, and the dramatization of weather and other topics, our minds easily shift to negative. Research tells us that the effects of negativity result in cynicism, hostility, and a repetitive loop of only focusing on the bad. Whether we believe it or not, our immune systems are impacted and physical and mental symptoms arise, such as headaches, stomach aches, anxiety, and depression. Discontent of spirit becomes the cornerstone with which we move forward.

Ugh! Who wants all of that? I sure don’t. I have often said that if the news only reported on the generosity, compassion, and concern for others for one straight month, how much better, collectively, everyone would be? I know, I know…a pipe dream regarding the news, but one can only hope. After all, to love or to care for someone is a selfless act, right? For most of the time, when I look around, I see moments of people demonstrating generosity, compassion, and concern for others. However, on the flip side of this, I also see moments of selfishness.

When I get down and out, I think of stories about people paying it forward, people giving to others just because. I turn to stories such as “what goes around comes around.” The act of giving of self just because and then the receiver of the generosity pays it forward in the way they can, and so on and so on…reading about it is, well, just uplifting.

The month of February is traditionally about love with hearts and cupids; the act of generosity becomes the forefront of our existence, at least, and with hope, for most of us! The dictionary definition of selflessness informs us that the act involves putting the needs, interests, and/or well-being of others before our own, without expecting personal gain or recognition.

The focus of selflessness can be difficult when you are in chronic pain, burnout, or experiencing stress and trauma. A few suggestions to help begins with acknowledging your struggles and being gentle with yourself. A few more tips include:

Dr. Irvine Yalom, an American existential psychiatrist and someone who believed that support groups possessed certain dynamics, is one of my favorite theorists and educators in the field of psychology. He believed that increased healing occurs when the facilitator or counselor fosters a cohesiveness and supportive environment. One thing he is known for is his eleven therapeutic factors for achieving change in a person within a group setting. One of those therapeutic factors that I believe is at the forefront of our month’s focus is altruism.

Altruism is self-sacrifice and selflessness. Once someone becomes a member of a collective group, he/she experiences a sense of worth by helping someone else. Value, purpose, and meaning become the giving force for that person and the result is a sense of pride and confidence.

At Hope Grows, we recommend giving of self through volunteer efforts, especially when grieving. When mourning a loss, emptiness and loneliness becomes prominent and through the act of giving and becoming a member of a collective group helps with a sense of value and purpose; meaning of life begins to return.

So, what do you do when selfless actions turn sour? What gets in the way of truly living a life that is altruistic? Start with evaluating obstacles and challenges that are getting in the way of truly living a life that is selfless. Some of these hindrances are:

  • Ego and a sense of pride can hinder altruïsm. When individuals are driven by a need for recognition or validation, it may undermine the purity of selfless actions.
  • Fear of giving too much of themselves will deplete their own resources.
  • Lack of boundaries makes it difficult to sustain selfless acts over time.
  • If the selfless act is conditional and only offered when certain expectations are met or reciprocated.
  • Unconscious bias or prejudices can influence how individuals choose to extend selfless acts.
  • Lack of empathy can hinder one’s ability to connect and respond to others’ experiences.
  • Societal norms and cultural expectations can emphasize individual success and achievement over collective well-being.

Overcoming these obstacles and challenges often involves self-reflection, personal growth, and a commitment to foster a mindset of compassion and generosity. Out of the list above, I believe that the lack of empathy and compassion plays a crucial role, as well as understanding others viewpoints.

One last thought for you. Growing up, my parents had The Golden Rule on the wall in the family room. The principle of treating others as you would want to be treated was something I not only read daily, but watched my parents made an effort to accomplish. Another piece of advice we often heard was, “Don’t judge someone unless you have walked a mile in their footsteps”.

All in all, remember that it is not selfish to take care of yourself; it is a necessary component to living out an altruistic life. However, finding the right balance is essential for your well-being and for keeping the necessary boundaries so that burnout and apathy doesn’t become your ammo.

Happy February! Look into nature for the beauty it gives selflessly; it is there despite the dormancy.

Written by Lisa Story, MSCP, LPC, CT
Hope Grows Founder & Clinical Director


I woke this morning, January 1, 2024, to a small covering of snow. After the rain that our area endured during the Christmas season, I found this to be inspiring. These are the moments of stillness and beauty I talked about in the blog introducing the 2024 theme for the year, Empowering Caregivers through All Seasons. “The brightness of the morning sparked freshness from its dark and dreary place and rekindled an inward rebuilding of what nature does without effort: inspire.”

The focus for January 2024 is inspiration. Inspiration is a force that propels us to reach beyond our “perceived” limitations. Those that provide the selfless act of compassion, such as the act of giving care, is at the heart of an altruistic exertion that surpasses the boundaries of self. Tending to the needs of others, caregiving is a source of profound inspiration to those watching. The act of giving to others not only provides solace to those in need, but also kindles a flame of motivation within the person giving care.

While these small acts of kindness impact the human spirit, one providing the care must be careful of the limits of self. Someone that is extremely compassionate can burn out and someone that continues to give without taking a break can end up with traumatic stress. Both of these can lead to dissatisfaction in life, feeling as if life has no meaning, and questioning one’s purpose. This is called “spiritual stress” and takes quite a bit of healing to feel inspired again.

Nature’s Influence on Caregiving

When this occurs, one can retreat to nature. While in the embrace of nature, inspiration takes on a different manner. The beauty of a sunrise, the tranquility of a forest, or the rhythmic dance of ocean waves possess an unparalleled ability to stir the soul. It becomes a place where one can let go of control; nature doesn’t ask anything of the person embracing its beauty.

Nature, with its cyclical patterns of growth, decay, and renewal, mirrors the human experience. Observing the resilience of a tiny seed pushing through the soil to become a towering tree, or witnessing the rebirth of a barren landscape after a rainstorm, one cannot help but draw parallels to the ebb and flow of life’s challenges and triumphs. Nature becomes a silent healer, imparting valuable lessons of empowerment about adaptation, patience, and the inevitability of change.

When caregiving and nature converge, a powerful interaction occurs, strengthening the soul of the caregiver. Solace and renewal begin to emerge. One can begin to feel, well, almost lifted, healthier and restored.

So, when you feel uninspired from the acts of giving care and it leaves you feeling depleted, take a walk in a serene garden, contemplate the view of a breathtaking vista, or stare into a barren tree and think about its story. This becomes a form of self-care, replenishing the caregiver’s emotional reserves. Nature, in turn, benefits from the nurturing touch of caregiving, as individuals inspired by compassion may choose to extend their care to the environment, fostering a sense of responsibility and stewardship.

In conclusion, the caregiver’s selflessness and the healing drawn from nature fuels the human spirit. Together, nature and caregiving can remind us of the delicate and intricate design of both. Inspiration becomes a living force that breathes life into our actions, a healing and transformative change occurs. As we navigate the complexities of it all, the inspiring moments are the delicate balance between the caregiving and nature, the “reciprocal relationship” that I so often talk about. It forges a path towards a more resilient existence. When the dark and dreary moments of winter bring you down, retreat to nature, even if it is from your kitchen window.

Written by Lisa Story, MSCP, LPC, CT
Hope Grows Founder & Clinical Director

2024: Empowering Family Caregivers through All Seasons

Happy New Year! Every new year brings remembrance, review, and resolutions; it also brings change. The change can be small, such as writing a different year on financial documents, to something bigger, like the planning and cleaning out of closets and drawers. It can also bring about internal changes of self.

Vern McLellan, a writer, speaker, musician, broadcaster, and associate pastor, once said, “What the new year brings to you will depend a great deal on what you bring to the new year.” I happen to agree and believe this to be the answer in bringing about positive change into the new year. Evaluate what isn’t working and make change, resolution, to move forward.

I know this may sound cliché, but I love planning for resolutions and this time of year. I thrive on change and the changing of seasons. The autumn season used to be my favorite, but the older I get, the more winter is becoming my season of choice. Perhaps it’s the stillness and the beauty that sparks from its dark and dreary place, or the inward rebuilding of what nature appears to do without effort. Whatever it is – the beauty in the gloom, the acceptance of changing moods, or cyclical phases – is, without a doubt, at the top. I happen to thrive for the newness that internal change brings; it sparks inspiration and empowerment.

The theme for 2024 is Empowering Family Caregivers through All Seasons. The changing of seasons can be, for some, overwhelming and bring on a sense of restlessness; perhaps a bit of what caregiving may look like. As the seasons change, empowerment can be a valuable antidote for the restlessness.

Empowering the soul in the midst of those dark and dreary days can be challenging. It can also be a transformative experience; as in nature, there are lessons and opportunities for resilience and growth. One of the lessons is the positive thoughts that can occur. While December 21st marked the change from Autumn to Winter, it also became the shortest day of the year. The positive antidote to the often-dreary feeling when this happens is that each day moving forward gets lighter and longer.

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs and speeches, there is a reciprocal relationship that exists between self and nature. What the new year unfolds is what we choose for the new year, and can help us consider what we have and don’t have control over. So, try to bring with it the positive side of change. Empower the soul by embracing the complexities of life. Find strength in adversity and cultivate a mindset that allows for growth and transformation, even in challenging conditions.

Empowerment in the context of caregiving and loss involves taking intentional steps to regain a sense of control, confidence, and well-being. With caregiving, sometimes it is putting self first – putting the oxygen mask on and taking “Just 10-Minutes” for a short break.

The Hope Grows Think Caregiver program continues to remain a source of strength for caregivers. If you are new to the program, it consists of monthly check-in phone calls, bi-weekly emails that offer Simple “Self-Care” Suggestions, and moments of self-care and respite activities and support. Hope Grows has 11 years of working with and understanding the impact of providing care and the impact that loss has on the mind, body, and spirit. Our goals for those caregiving and grieving are about cultivating wellness; regaining balance and perspective, along with empowerment as some of the benefits. We value those we help with a supportive, understanding, and encouraging way to help navigate the challenging stages of both caregiving and grief.

Learn from the silence of what nature is bringing us right now. In the stillness of a dim and lifeless natural setting of winter, there can be a profound opportunity for introspection and self-discovery. The quietude of nature can be a powerful teacher and perhaps bring that thought into the new year.

Written by Lisa Story, MSCP, LPC, CT
Hope Grows Founder & Clinical Director