Begin Anew for the New Year

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As we come to the end of 2016, we hold an opportunity to set positive intentions for the new year. With the changing of the calendars, we can begin anew.

Beginning anew is a Buddhist practice where the past is reconciled and then positive intentions are set for the future.

When we clear the mind through focused breathing and meditation, we can become attuned to our true feelings. We can ask the questions that allow careful reflection. Through this careful reflection, we recognize the challenges, mistakes, difficulties, and conflicts that we have experienced over the past year. We also appreciate what we has gone well, our successes, our wise choices, and our strengthened relationships.

If we can make amends for what we have done, we have the opportunity to begin anew. We can process the emotions that arise as a way of forgiving and reconciling what has happened.

We can also make amends to ourselves, and that intention to begin anew will carry you forward. The careful reflection is a chance to process what happened, and then to let go.

Then, as we move into the new year, we can begin anew with a renewed sense of hope and peace. As you set out on the path of 2017, how will you do things differently?

Lindsay

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The North Van Caregivers Blog: A Year in Review

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As we begin the new year, we’d like to say thank you to all the guest writers who contributed to our blog this year. These people are talented, local professionals, experts, and individuals who gave their time and knowledge to our caregiver community.

Thank you to:

We’d also like to thank our committed volunteer, Calm Pond, for the numerous posts she has contributed to our blog over the years. Her post, 9 Symptoms of Burnout, was our most viewed and liked post of the year!

Finally, a special thanks to you–our readers–for your comments, your feedback, and your dedication to our community in 2016

Lindsay

 

Mindful Monday no. 59 – Post-Holiday Energy Restoring

We have now officially made it through the bulk of the holiday season. At this point, you may be feeling quite depleted in energy, especially if you have hosted a big family dinner last night. The best thing you can do this week is allow yourself some time to restore.

10 things to do today to allow yourself time to restore:

  1. Allow yourself some rest time by wearing your pyjamas all day, sleeping until you wake up, or letting yourself lay on the couch with a book.
  2. Disconnect from your phone and email for at least one day.  If you are taking time off work, you want to make sure that you restore in time for your return
  3. Inspire yourself to eat well by making a healthy, delicious meal.
  4. Practice some gratitude by handwriting thank-you notes to loved ones.
  5. Commit to a few self-care appointments in January, like a massage or a hair cut.
  6. Spend some time reflecting on some intentions for the new year.
  7. Do some gentle yoga or Tai chi exercises, especially if you have been thrown off your normal fitness routine. Or take a nice, relaxing stroll out of doors.
  8.  Instead of drinking festive drinks, drink the recommended daily intake of 8 glasses of water in a day.
  9. Make an appointment with a counsellor or close friend to decompress after the holidays, especially if it has been especially trying.
  10. Mindfully do some household chores to get back on track. Nothing makes me feel back on track as much as a full fridge, sparkling floors, and clean sheets.

What is the best way to restore for you? We’d love to hear your tips and tricks in our comment section.

Lindsay

Grief during special occasions

The Christmas season can stir up powerful emotions for people. Whether you practice specific expressions of faith, or focus on spending time with family and friends; the month of December can bring up mixed emotions in relation to the year past. You may be regretful about conflict with a friend, or sad about those in your family or community that have passed away. It is often a time to reflect on the successes and joys as well as the hardships and sorrows of the year.

Family caregivers, you may be painfully aware of how your spouse or parent has changed this year. Seeing a loved one decline in their physical and mental abilities truly does tug on the heartstrings. These feelings of helplessness, sadness or worry are a form of grief-  a gap in the heart that notices how life is very different than it was before. Even though you may be able to function just fine in your daily routines, something doesn’t feel quite right when you are grieving.

For some caregivers, anxiety about the future looms large.  Others find it stressful or tiring to try and be “up” for the social occasions of the season. These are all understandable feelings, considering all you have been through.
I invite you to notice what you’re feeling right in this moment. Is your body signaling that it’s worn out? Is your chest feeling tight? Are your thoughts busy and worried? It is crucial to give yourself permission to STEP AWAY from activities that are too much for you. Adding to your existing responsibilities may cause you to go through burnout, and I  don’t want that.

You may ask , “How do I step away?”. I recommend a terrific article on saying “no” with more confidence and less emotional strain. This article is based on Marshall Rosenberg’s philosophy of Non-Violent Communication, where the aim is to convey that you care about the other person and their needs, AND that you sometimes need to say “no” to specific requests. Read Saying “No” without Saying “No” here: http://thefearlessheart.org/saying-no-without-saying-no/

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Here are a few book ideas on coping with loss:
Please note that we have Leaves Falling gently in our resource library here at Capilano Mall in North Vancouver.

Denholm, Diana B. The Caregiver Wife’s Handbook: Caring for your Seriously Ill Husband, Caring for Yourself.

Berman, Claire. Caring For Yourself While Caring For Your Aging Parents: How to Help, How to Survive.

Bauer-Wu, Susan. Leaves Falling Gently: Living Fully with Serious and Life Limiting Illness through Mindfulness, Compassion and Connectedness.

May you treat yourself with kindness this season, no matter the kind of loss you may be experiencing.

-Karyn

A Quote for Peace

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Celebrated diarist Anais Nin once bought one of those tiny paper parasols in a  shop, but the parasol tore, so she went to another shop to replace it.  The shop owner said because the parasol was Japanese she should destroy it, and this is how Nin responds, in her diary:

I looked at the parasol in my hand, innocent and delicate, made in a moment of peace, outside of love and hatred. I could not bring myself to throw it away. I folded it quietly, protectively. I folded up delicacy, peace, skill, humble work…I folded the dream of peace, the frail paper shelter of peace…

(The Diary of Anais Nin, Vol.3 1939-1944)

May your holiday bring quiet peace into your home this year,

Calm Pond

Mindful Monday no. 58 – The Sound of Bells

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The sound of the bell has long been used in the practice of mindfulness. When a bell rings, its sound radiates and we become aware of ourselves in the present moment: our surroundings, our breathing, our grounding on the earth. It can be a signal to draw our attention to the external world and our presence in it.

If you would like to use bells in your mindfulness practice, here are 5 ideas on how to incorporate them: 

  1. Play this YouTube video in the background while working at a desk. It will ring the bell every 30 minutes for 8 hours to remind you to be conscious of the external world.
  2. Use these timed recordings of bells to enter and complete your meditation practice.
  3. program a timer on your phone so that every time it rings, you awake to the present moment.
  4. Download Insight Timer, a free app for your phone, which offers sounds to enhance your practice.
  5. Set the intention to use any sound of the bell to bring your attention to the present moment. The sound could be the ring of the telephone, chimes blowing in the wind, a bicycle speeding past.

Lindsay

Foodie Friday: Salt-Dough Ornaments

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This isn’t a recipe for eating; it’s a recipe for making!

Using items from your pantry, you can make easy salt-dough ornaments for the holiday season. The recipe is simple so you don’t have to seek out special ingredients. It is also a great activity to include children.

How to make salt-dough ornaments: 

What you need: 

4 cups of all-purpose flour

1 cup of salt

1 1/2 cups of warm water

What you do:

  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Celsius.
  2. Mix the flour and salt together, and slowly pour in warm water as you stir.
  3. Roll out your salt dough on a floured surface until it is flat and even.
  4. Use cookie cutters to cut your dough into ornaments, and poke a hole for the top to thread the string to make the ornament.
  5. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for approximately one hour, or until hard.
  6. Once cool, paint and varnish your ornaments.
  7. Thread a piece of ribbon or string through the hole and hang them on your tree.

Adapted from the recipe at Allrecipes.com.

Once they are dried, you can hang them on the tree or give them as gifts. They make beautiful present toppers as well!

Lindsay

 

Mindful Monday no. 57 – The 54321 Grounding Technique

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Here is a simple grounding technique to use through out the holidays. It is called the 54321 Grounding Technique because as you are counting backwards, you are drawing your attention to the present moment in terms of your senses.

How to do the 54321 Grounding Technique:

  1. Name 5 things you can see, hear, feel right now.
  2. Name 4 things you can see, hear, feel.
  3. Name 3 things you can see, hear, feel.
  4. Name 2 things you can see, hear, feel.
  5. Name 1 thing you can see, hear, feel.

Here is an alternative way to do the 54321 Grounding Technique:

  1. Name 5 things you can see in the room
  2. Name 4 thing you can hear at the moment.
  3. Name 3 things you can feel right now.
  4. Name 2 things you can smell .
  5. Name 1 thing you can taste.

Try them both to find which way works best for you. What did you notice?

Here is another sensory exercise for mindfulness:Writing the 5 Senses

Lindsay

10 Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

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The average person needs 8-10 hours sleep a day, so how do you ensure you get a good night’s sleep?  Here are 10 tips that may help:

  1. Get out of bed at the same time every day. This sets the circadian rhythm.
  2. Nap for only 20 minutes, avoid naps initially.
  3. If you wake up groggy, you need to increase sleep time.
  4. Expose yourself to light in the morning, but avoid bright light before bed.
  5. Avoid exercising within 2 hours of going to bed.
  6. Avoid heavy evening meals.
  7. Avoid caffeine after 2 pm, or at the latest 5 pm (varies from person to person).
  8. Set up calming pre-bed ritual: bath, reading, calming music, herbal tea, meditation, stretching.
  9. Don’t keep a TV in your bedroom.
  10. Avoid electronics at least 1 hour before bed.

Hope these tips help. Sweet dreams everyone!

Calm Pond

Mindful Monday no. 56 – Mindful Consumption

For many the holidays are a season of excess. We feast on delicious food and drinks. We splurge on gifts. We binge on holiday movies and TV specials. We indulge ourselves by accepting too many social invites. We overextend and exhaust ourselves in the process.

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I came across this passage about mindful consumption by Thich Nhat Hanh. He discusses how we over-consume in our day-to-day life, filling our bodies, minds, and spirits with toxins. For some, toxins can be unhealthy foods and for others, toxins can be dwelling on negative newscasts. He suggests that the toxins we consume are depleting not just ourselves, but also your loved ones, the community, and the planet.

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One of the ways we can consume more mindfully is to slow down and make intentions. Last holiday season, I was feeling particularly exhausted after a difficult year. I knew that visiting family during Christmas may only add to my tiredness so instead of doing too much, I did fewer things but with more mindful intention. For example, instead of hanging around my nieces and nephews everyday, I made special times where we could bond over activities. One day we made and decorated cookies. On another day we coloured. At the end of the holiday season, I felt restored and renewed.

money-card-business-credit-card-50987.jpegAnother way of practising mindful consumption is to make intentions with your purchasing power. Spend money on things that are local, hand-made, eco-friendly. Before buying gifts, ask yourself if this is something the person would value, use, appreciate? The city of Vancouver in recent years has done an annual Christmas advertising campaign which focuses on giving experiences rather than items as a way of reducing the amount of waste that is accumulated at this time of year. What they are really promoting is a form of mindful consumption.

What are the things that are toxins in your life? One way of determining what these are is by noting how you feel after you have consumed them. What I have noticed is healthy food will energize me, whereas unhealthy food will make me tired and unmotivated. Positive habits will lift my spirit, whereas negative habits will drag me down.

The next step is to make an intention to eliminate or at least reduce these habits. Treat it like an experiment. Observe the changes in your life and allow your observations to affirm your commitment to the practice of mindful consuming.

What do you commit to reducing in the coming weeks? We’d love to hear your plans in the comment section.

Lindsay