The Art of Letting Go: Balancing Expectations in Caregiving and Lessons from Nature

In the month of June, the ThinkCaregiver™ program and its Simple Suggestions talked about expectations and all it can ensue. We started the month off with the quote by Debra L. Reble, “We must let go of any expectations of how life should be, in order to experience how life can be.” Quite profound and very relatable to nature and all things caregiving.  

Nature is a vast and intricate system that has evolved over billions of years. It offers numerous lessons and inspirations for all of us and, as I have said in the past, has a reciprocity that closely connects to the give and take of living and caring.

Caregiving, as I have said and advocated before, involves support, assistance, and nurturing to those who require help due to an age-related disease, a chronic illness, a physical or mental disability, childhood special needs, veterans, and other circumstances. While caregiving can be fulfilling and meaningful, it can drain one physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Not too mention, it can drain us financially and of our career that one has worked very hard to achieve.

One does not go into helping someone at the most vulnerable times of their lives with the expectation that they are going to be drained of so much. Although I believe it is natural to have expectations once someone is the role of caregiving, sometimes it is best to put them aside. Once put aside, the result can indeed be helpful.

Reduced stress and frustration are at the top of the list of reasons. An increase in becoming adaptable, having improved emotional well-being, a greater dynamic in the relationship and an easier time at living in the present moment. I think it is important to point out that letting go of expectations does not mean abandoning goals or ceasing to care, it is more about cultivating a mindset of acceptance and compassion. In doing this, one can focus on providing the best care possible while recognizing and appreciating the uniqueness of each situation and individual journey.

In addition, setting aside expectations can help one to strike a balance. It’s still important to have realistic goals, seek appropriate support, and maintain a level of structure and planning in caregiving, however, finding a middle ground between letting go of rigid expectations and maintaining a proactive and organized approach can help caregivers navigate their roles effectively.

Nature can help with this. It offers a multitude of expectations and lessons. By observing and learning from nature, we can develop a greater understanding of our place in the world and foster a more harmonious relationship with both the natural environment and each other. Consider one or more of those lessons.

Ebb and Flow

The ebb and flow of life is a natural cycle that is closely interconnected with the rhythms of nature. Just as the tides of the ocean ebb and flow, so too does life go through periods of growth, change, and renewal.

Nature provides a powerful metaphor for the ebb and flow of life. For example, in the springtime, plants begin to grow and bloom after a long period of dormancy during the winter. Similarly, in our own lives, we may go through periods of rest and rejuvenation before embarking on new challenges and endeavors.

Nature also reminds us of the impermanence of life. Just as the leaves on a tree change color and fall away in the autumn, so too do we experience endings and transitions in our own lives. However, just as the tree will eventually sprout in the spring, we too have the capacity to renew ourselves and start fresh after difficult times.

Nature can provide comfort and solace during times of hardship. Spending time in nature, whether it’s walking in the woods, watching a sunset, or listening to the sound of the ocean, can help us to feel connected to something larger than ourselves and find peace in the midst of adversity.

Overall, the ebb and flow of life and nature are intricately connected, and by embracing this natural cycle, we can find meaning, purpose, and resilience in the face of life’s challenges.

The ebb and flow of caregiving refers to the cyclical nature of caring for someone who is in need of assistance, such as a loved one with a chronic illness or disability. Caregiving can be challenging and demanding, and it often involves a lot of emotional, physical, and mental energy.

Recognizing the ebb and flow of caregiving is important for both the caregiver and the person receiving care. Caregivers may experience periods of burnout or exhaustion, as well as times when they feel more energized and able to provide support. It’s important for caregivers to be aware of their own needs and limitations, and to take time for self-care when necessary.

Referring to the ebb and flow of caregiving can also help caregivers to recognize and anticipate the needs of the person they are caring for. For example, if the person is going through a difficult period of illness or recovery, they may require more hands-on assistance and support. Alternatively, if the person is feeling more independent and able to manage their own care, the caregiver may need to take a step back and provide more emotional support and encouragement.

Reinforcing the ebb and flow of caregiving involves acknowledging and validating the efforts of the caregiver. Caregiving can be a thankless job, and it’s important to recognize the hard work and dedication that caregivers provide. Simple gestures such as expressing gratitude, offering to help, or providing respite care can go a long way in reinforcing the caregiver’s efforts and helping them to feel supported.

Overall, recognizing, referring to, and reinforcing the ebb and flow of caregiving can help caregivers to manage the challenges of caregiving and provide the best possible care to their loved ones.

Weathering the ebb and flow of life and caregiving can be challenging, but incorporating simple self-care practices into your daily routine can help you feel more resilient and better equipped to handle whatever comes your way. One simple self-care practices that you can try is essential oils. Cypress essential oil is known for its calming and grounding properties, and it has been used for centuries for its therapeutic benefits. One of the ways in which cypress essential oil can help with the ebb and flow of life is by supporting the immune system.

Research has shown that cypress essential oil has immunomodulatory effects, meaning that it can help to regulate the immune system. Specifically, cypress essential oil has been found to increase the activity of natural killer (NK) cells, which are a type of white blood cell that play a critical role in the body’s immune defense against infections, cancer and cells infected with viruses.

Cypress essential oil has a calming and soothing effect on the nervous system. It can help to reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and tension, and promote a sense of relaxation and peace. This can be particularly beneficial during times of stress or transition, when the ebb and flow of life may feel overwhelming.

It’s important to remember that adversity is a natural part of life, and it can often lead to personal growth and development. By facing and overcoming challenges, we can build resilience, learn important life lessons, and develop new skills and strengths.

Reflections from the Iris Respite House Healing Gardens – May 2023

Morning glory flowers shine in the morning, bloom vibrantly through the day and then stagger toward their end in the evening. Life, death and rebirth, all in 24 hours, and all on the vine of a plant many people regard as a weed! The ebb and flow of life is our focus for May. At the moment, the Hope Grows healing gardens are most definitely in a state of genuine flow, and perennials, perfect examples of this, are leading the charge. Right now, bursting forth with blooms and leaves, they seem to grow several inches overnight, it’s flow time! By November, though, they will all be in ebb, the leaves and stalks drying up. Hence, the out and in breath of Mother Earth at Hope Grows.

In our often-greedy American culture, it’s easy to be blinded by images of a culture in constant flow. Buy more, eat more, earn more, go more, be more! I certainly am guilty of getting sucked in by that. Nature, and real life, however, are completely different. Ebb and flow in nature is unavoidable. It’s built into the system. Its why people preserve fruit and vegetables, and squirrels stash nuts. In our adult lives, especially during our working years, we try and guard against ebb as much as possible by making a living. Prudent souls, cognizant of the rhythms of nature, will save money for a time when they may not have the flow of money from work. Those that mistake periods of flow for constant, may not be as wise.

I think it’s one of the lessons from the garden. Our days are full of gains and losses, high tides and low tides, growth and die back. It’s as natural as the rising and setting sun. The challenge for us as humans is to wisely maneuver both states. Do you try and control ebb and flow, make it work on your time? Or can you just let it be? Can you be grateful for both? Or are you too afraid of ebb? Can you respect both states of mind? Can you stand as tall in ebb as you do in flow? Can you maintain flow? Without regular maintenance, even the most beautiful of gardens in full flow can get out of control, and you run the risk of losing your harvest, diminishing one of flow’s greatest benefits. The best gardeners will know how to work the land in both states.

Today, actually, is my Hope Grows anniversary, as I call it, my Hope Growsiversery! As I write this reflection, I am celebrating 2 years to the day of working and learning in the Hope Grows gardens. And I’ve started to trust the garden. It’s taken a while, but before experiencing the grounding rhythms of the garden’s ebb and flow, I was a ball of worry and stress. I had not learned how to trust the land. It’s only been this spring, after the reassurance that comes from experiencing something twice, that I’ve been able to feel some of my anxiety fall away. I can almost hear the plants laughing at me, after 2 years, saying we knew what we were doing all along, glad you finally caught on!

In the coming weeks, I will be planting our 2023 cut flower garden. For me to harvest the flowers, I have to usher that garden out of ebb and into flow. This includes adding compost to the soil, choosing the most optimal spots for all the seedlings, watering and fertilizing. When those plants flow with flowers, I will give thanks to God for the bounty, and then I get to do one of my favorite parts of my job: cutting and selling bouquets, which wouldn’t be possible, nor seem as sweet, without all the previous season’s ebb. The next time you find yourself in a state of ebb, resist the temptation to fear or look down on it. Instead, try giving thanks, and keep an open mind, for the stage may be ‘being set’ for a flow you never could have imagined.

Written By
Jessica Giannotta


What does anticipation do to our psyche?

Anticipation can have both positive and negative effects on our psyche, depending on the situation and our individual personality traits and experiences. On the positive side, anticipation can create a sense of excitement and motivation. When we are looking forward to something that we expect to be enjoyable or rewarding, our brains release dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and motivation. This can help us feel more energized, focused, and engaged in our daily lives. For example, the anticipation of a vacation or a special event can help us get through a difficult work week or other challenging situations.

However, anticipation can also create anxiety and stress. When we are waiting for something that we fear or feel uncertain about, our brains can release cortisol, a hormone associated with stress. This can make us feel on edge, distracted, and irritable. For example, the anticipation of a difficult conversation or a medical procedure can cause anxiety and make it difficult to focus on other tasks.

In general, anticipation is a normal and natural part of the human experience. It can help us feel motivated and excited about the future, but it can also create anxiety and stress. By understanding how anticipation affects us individually, we can learn to manage our emotions and reactions to different situations.


Caring for a loved one can be a challenging and emotionally demanding, and anticipation can add to the stress and anxiety of our lives. There are some ways caregivers can handle anticipation.

  • Communicate with the loved one: It can be helpful to have open and honest conversations with the person you are caring for about their needs, expectations, and concerns. By understanding their perspective, you can better prepare for what lies ahead and work together to address any issues that arise.
  • Plan ahead: Anticipation can be particularly challenging when you are uncertain about what to expect. To reduce stress and anxiety, try to plan ahead as much as possible. Make a schedule of appointments, arrange for transportation, and prepare any necessary supplies or equipment in advance.
  • Take care of yourself: It’s important for caregivers to take care of their own physical and emotional well-being. This can include getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and finding time for self-care activities like exercise, meditation, or spending time with friends and family.
  • Seek support: Caregiving can be isolating, but it doesn’t have to be. Reach out to family, friends, or support groups for help and advice. You may also want to consider working with a professional caregiver or therapist who can provide additional support and guidance.
  • Stay positive: While caregiving can be challenging, it can also be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. Try to focus on the positive aspects of your role and celebrate small victories along the way. Remember that you are making a difference in the life of someone you love, and that can be a powerful motivator.

Finally, it wouldn’t be complete unless I mention nature. Anticipation is a common phenomenon in nature, and it can be observed in various contexts. For example, animals anticipate the changing of seasons, the arrival of food, the mating season, and the migration of other animals. Plants also anticipate changes in their environment and adjust their growth patterns accordingly.

We can use the lessons from nature’s anticipation to reduce stress in our own lives and there are many effective ways to engage in nature to help. Forest bathing, gardening, hiking or walking in nature, birdwatching, nature journaling and forest therapy are some ways.

If any of those spark your interest, give us a call at Hope Grows, we can guide and support you. These activities can help individuals connect with nature and reduce feelings of anticipation and anxiety. It’s important to find activities that work best for each individual’s unique needs and preferences.

Reflections from the Iris Respite House Healing Gardens March 2023

If you’re a caregiver, I’m sure there are times when you find yourself
neglecting your own nutritional needs for the good of your care receiver. The great thing about
nutrition, though, is that if you take the time to prepare healthier meals, even just once a day,
benefiting from the built-in healing mechanisms within the food, it can be good for both of you.