Mindful Monday no. 85 – Focus: How to Avoid Spreading Yourself too Thin

A post from one year ago, and it’s still so relevant. Read this post to learn ways to prevent burnout and increase focus.

North Van Caregivers

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Feeling overwhelmed is often the result of saying “yes” to too many things. It’s not hard for caregivers to end up with what feels like a never ending to-do list. There is always more that you could be doing, and of course you want to do all you can to support your loved one. Although it’s tempting to do more and more, having healthy boundaries and being mindful about what you agree to take on will help you to focus on what you’re doing and allow you the time to take care of yourself.

How do you avoid spreading yourself too thin? Get really comfortable saying “no.”

Saying no can be hard. You could feel scared about how someone will react if you decline an invitation or you might worry that your loved one won’t get what they need if you can’t do what they need done. Fear can be…

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The Mini Vacation: Some Summer Ideas

We are big advocates for caregivers taking mini-vacations any chance they get! It is a great way to recharge, relax, and connect with yourself. For many, the idea of a vacation when you’re caring for a loved one might feel out of reach. You could be concerned about the cost, and taking time away from your care partner. Mini-vacations do not have to take long. You can have one in 30 minutes, 60 minutes, or half a day if you’re able! The summer months are a great time to take have a free mini-vacation. Here are some ideas for places to visit and ways to take a break on the North Shore.

Coffee or Tea Break

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This is one of my favourite ways to take a quick break. Though it is not free, it is extremely low cost – especially if you choose a drip coffee! Take some time to slowly enjoy a coffee or tea, or take it go and explore the neighbourhood.

Visit a Beach

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It is summer, after all! Dip your toes in the ocean or find a shady spot if it’s too hot. Our local beaches are so vibrant and full of life at this time of year. Children are running around, couples are holding hands and walking. Soak it all in!

Forest Walk

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This is a great option for hot summer days! The North Shore offers some accessible trails for languid walks. Put your phone on silent and breathe in the fresh air.

‘My summer with CBT-i’

This summer I took ‘the bull by the horns’ so to speak, and tried to treat my chronic insomnia by completing an online course on CBT-I (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia) program at www.myshuti.com

The program was, on the whole, successful, but only because I really followed the instructions and paid close attention to the modules (there are six in all). The most useful modules for me were the module on Behavior and the module on Thoughts. In the thoughts module I learned not to worry about my insomnia or stress out about ‘hard nights’. Curiously, when I stopped worrying about my lack of sleep, I slept longer and better.  A bit like the Caregivers Support Group : strength in shared experience.

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Of course at my age insomnia is quite normal, and that was another thing I liked about the course: it gave me a feeling that I was not alone, that there were others out there who struggled with the same issues, and overcame them.  When I learned to accept and tolerate lack of sleep, I stopped worrying so much, and slept better.

Stay tuned for up-coming post on ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) and how it can improve your quality of life.

-Calm Pond

The Way to un-do your frustration

North Van Caregivers

As a preview to our January 18th self-care session on Transforming frustration into life force, this post will let you get to know the passionate work of our speaker, Seth Lyon.

Jaws tighten, teeth gnash and guts churn. The mind races, marshaling it’s arguments, it’s justifications, we lash out with harsh words or we stifle it down and seethe silently which makes us sick.

Frustration, anger, rage.

There are many ways that we, as a culture, “deal” with these powerful emotions, ways that usually result in us either hurting others or ourself, and so the energy of these emotions is never actually processed and transformed effectively into what it really is – energy. Lifeforce.

Why? Why is it so hard for us to really understand and harness this energy?

For 300,00 years or more we evolved as a species under conditions that could not be more different that the ones…

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Children on the Bus exercise

This is a really good exercise for learning acceptance and mindfulness. It is called the ‘Children on the Bus’ exercise and appears in “Overcoming anxiety: Using Compassion- Focused Therapy’ by Dennis Tirch (New Harbinger, 2012)

This exercise is rather similar to Rumi’s ‘Guest House’ poem. It is part of Tirch’s Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) approach a relatively new development in psychotherapy and self-help.

So here it is, get comfortable and imagine…
…that you’re a bus driver. You have a powerful bus at your command. The bus represents all the different aspects of your life, your challenges and strengths. You’ll be driving the bus to a destination of your choice- a destination that represents your values and goals. You want, above all, to keep to your route, because this goal or vision is very important to you.

As a bus driver you’ll be picking up passengers along your route. Unfortunately some of the passengers are quite noisy and unruly children, some, the most unpleasant that you’ve ever encountered. Each one represents a difficult, anxiety-provoking thought or feeling you’ve had to deal with in the course of your life. Some children represent panic, others worry and fear. These children are very rude, they shout insults at you, they call you names like ‘loser’. Some shout: “Stop the bus! This will never work!”

You’d like to stop the bus and discipline these children or maybe throw them off, but if you did that you’d no longer be moving in the direction of your goal. You could, alternatively, try a different route, and then the children would quieten down. But then this would be a detour from living the life that takes you closer to your goal. All of a sudden, you realize that you’ve been so preoccupied with these bratty children that you’ve already missed a couple of turns and have lost some time. You realize that in order to reach your goal you need to continue driving. So you make space for these noisy children, and, at the same time, pursue your life in the direction you’ve chosen.

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You see that each child represents a very tricky brain that’s evolved over millions of years to respond in all sorts of angry and confusing ways to a difficult or complicated environment. You realize that your tricky brain is not your fault.

Your compassionate self, driving the bus, can make room for all these unruly children: your anxious self, your angry self, your jealous self—all your ‘difficult’ selves in fact. All these children vying for your attention, carrying on and on. And yet, in spite of these difficult children, you find you can still travel on your chosen path. And, as you do so, you feel kind to yourself and non-judgmental as you keep your eyes on the road.

To read more about CFT or to download meditation exercises, see Dennis Tirch’s website:  www.Mindfulcompassion.com

-Calm Pond

 

Berries and Mindfulness: A Mini-Vacation for Caregivers

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This summer, we’ll be focusing some posts on how you can escape your caregiving role in small ways in order to practice better self-care. Think: mini-vacations, mindful meals, and maybe even an outdoor swim! The summer months lend themselves nicely to low-cost ways to take breaks, and we’re going to give you some ideas for how to take advantage of what this season has to offer.

The first on the docket: berry picking! The idea might conjure up visions or memories of children with stained clothing and sticky fingers, but it can be just as joyful for adults. Berry picking slows us down and connects us to our environment. It is impossible to pick berries quickly. You have to find the best spots for picking berries and identify the bushes. You have to search branches for the ripest, brightest berries and either eat them right away or plop them in to buckets. It’s hard to do anything other than pick berries while you’re working at it, except for perhaps carrying on light conversation. The very act is mindful, and as we know, practicing mindfulness is crucial for regulating our nervous systems and being able to take care of ourselves so we can take care of our loved ones.

Edible Bushcraft describes 32 types of berries that we can forage and eat in BC! Did you know there were so many? We won’t cover all of them today, but please do visit their page to learn more. Read on for three berries you can pick locally for the next three months.**

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RED HUCKLEBERRY | These tart, tiny berries are high in Vitamin C and can be eaten raw, or mashed and spread out for drying. Find them in forests and lowland and montane areas.

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SALMONBERRY | Salmonberries can be red or orange, and to me, they signify the start of summer. They are mildly sweet and can be found in coastal forests.

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HAWTHORN | “Hawthorn can be taken as a tea, tincture or in capsules of dried herb. The tincture offers the most potent form of absorbing the medicinal value from the plant, but tea made from dried haws is valuable although a bit gentler. You can make a tea yourself by picking the haws at the end of the summer, cutting them in half and drying them in a food dehydrator until they are fully dry,” says Christina Weir. Find them in open grasslands or forest edges.

How do you practice self-care in the summer? What do you do to slow down and stay mindful? We’d love to hear from and learn from you.

*Photos by Christina Weir and Northern Bushcraft
**Please note: Always use caution when foraging and consuming wild berries, and do not use this as an official guide. 

3 ways to get a peaceful sleep

How are you sleeping? Here are some tips on getting your best sleep in the heat. Be prepared this summer!

North Van Caregivers

Care manager. Wife extraordinaire. Cook. Social coordinator. Housecleaner. Warrior husband. Any of these might describe what your caring role looks and feels like.

When you’ve been running around for most of the day, managing appointments, mealtimes, and making sure things go smoothly- by the time it’s evening, you might be tempted to just crash …. falling into bed without any wind-down time. While this is alright to do on occasion, it’s really important to create a routine that allows you to relax before going to bed. A wind-down routine signals to your mind and body that it’s time to stop doing and going- and to simply rest. And now that summer is on full blast, it can be inspiring to stay up late and watch the stars, or to get one more thing done during the long evening.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetNighttime routines help you:
Let go of the day, and release any physical tension…

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How to Stay Energized in the Heat

 

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The lower mainland is in the midst of a heatwave, and some of you may really be feeling the heat. Seniors and those with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable to high temperatures, but even if you don’t fall in to either of those categories, you might be noticing your energy levels have dipped in recent days. Drinking water is the best and fastest way to stay hydrated, but sometimes you might need a little something extra to give you energy throughout the day.

You might have seen commercials for energy drinks that encourage you to replenish your electrolytes after sweating, but do you know what electrolytes are? I will be the first to admit that I had no idea. “Potassium, sodium, and chloride are the three most important electrolytes. Other biggies include magnesium, calcium, and phosphate. These micronutrients are all salts that form ions in water and are capable of conducting electricity, meaning they actually have an electric charge,” explains Brigid Titgemeier. If you’re drinking water regularly, eating balanced meals, and getting moderate amounts of exercise, you should be getting more than enough electrolytes in your diet to stay hydrated. If, however, you experience muscle spasms, headaches, or digestive upset, you might need to supplement your water with electroytes to bring your body back in to balance.

Commercial energy drinks are full of sugar. If you’re a high-performance athlete, they might help you, but if you’re like the majority of the population, you’ll likely be better off with a healthy alternative. If you’re experiencing headaches or digestive upset in the heat, try these natural electrolyte restoring drinks. *

Please note: if symptoms persist, pay a visit to your family doctor. 

COCONUT WATER

“Natural coconut water contains five key electrolytes: sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Coconut water is packed with potassium, more than found in one banana or 15 sport drinks,” says Sports Nutritionist, Kyle Levers. Just make sure to check your labels when purchasing coconut water in stores. You want to only read “coconut water” in the list of ingredients.

LEMON-LINE LABOUR-AID

Carley Mendes wrote this recipe for laboring mamas, but it would work just as well for someone who is electrolyte depleted. Click here for the recipe.

 

Cassandra Van Dyck

Making Time for Self-Care

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“I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.” – Audre Lorde

It may seem almost too obvious to even state: caring for a loved one takes a huge amount of energy, time, and resources. Your care partner’s health and well-being likely takes up much of your thoughts and might leave you wondering what happened to old friends or hobbies. Although acceptance of where you’re at is helpful for your emotional well-being, it is also important that you pursue some of those passions and stay in touch with your friends. Connecting socially and doing what lights you up is a way to practice self-care, and as we know by now, practising self-care is crucial if you wish to be able to care for your loved one long term.

Today, I offer you a challenge. First, I want you to think of one friend that always makes you feel good, and get in touch with them. Send an email, or call them up on the phone. Even if you don’t feel that you have time to meet with them in person, take 10 minutes to write to them or speak with them on the phone. Second, think of something you do that lights you up. For some it could be painting, for others it might be hiking or swimming. Look at your calendar, and make a plan to do that activity for at least an hour sometime in the next two weeks. Once you’ve planned it out – stick to it.

We’d love to hear from you once you’ve completed one or two of these challenges. What were the barriers to taking time for self-care? How did you feel after? If you regularly take time to see friends or to do the things you love, how do you make time?

 

The Power Of Music

Some thoughts on the power of music from the archives.

North Van Caregivers

Whether or not we actively search for and listen to songs, sing, or play an instrument, music plays a big role in our lives. It’s played at graduations, birthday parties, weddings and anniversaries. It’s in our cars, in busy downtown streets and can even be heard through other people’s headsets or through open car windows. It could be argued that it is almost impossible to live life without having music associated with memories. Some of those memories might be happy – the song that was playing when you were first kissed or the lullaby that was sang to put you to sleep when you were little. Others might be sad. A man once shared with me that he is unable to listen to Amazing Grace without crying because he had heard it at so many people’s funerals.

For those living with dementia, listening to and participating in musical activities can…

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