“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” – Sorn Kierkegaard
As the calendar year comes to a close, you might be reflecting on the past twelve months. It is natural to look back at this time of year. Holidays can trigger memories dating back to our childhoods.
This time of year can be challenging for caregivers. Aside from the logistical obstacles, such as having your loved one at family dinners or arranging transportation to different events, the holidays can trigger emotions. You might be looking back on years past and notice how different your dynamic is with your care partner this year. Maybe your loved one is unable to participate in festivities and you’re mourning the loss of their presence. Or perhaps you’re just exhausted from a trying year.
Taking time away from the hustle and bustle of events to reflect on how you’re doing is incredibly important. If you’re having a hard time, be kind to yourself. Take some time alone and use these journal writing prompts to get grounded.
What were the highlights of this past year? What were the lowlights?
How am I different this year? How am I the same?
What am I proud of myself for? What can I work on?
Am I taking care of myself as well as I could be? Are there ways I could access more support for myself or my loved one?
What am I looking forward to in 2018?
How do you reflect on past years? We’d love to hear from you!
Cassandra Van Dyck
This year, my parents and I have a much more relaxed attitude about celebrating Christmas. I’d like to share with you the following quote, which seems to embody my perspective:
“…this was also the era of Martha Stewart, who had a decade-plus run as the queen of perfectionism until she was incarcerated. Homemade Christmas ornaments were all the rage, and Martha was dictating the rules. Here’s a slice of her December to-do list, published helpfully at the front of ‘Martha Stewart Living’; by December 8, all fruitcake baked’ by December 10, all gingerbread houses assembled; clean chandeliers on December 11. And so on. Women were outdoing themselves at work and on the homefront, contorting themselves like Gumby in the process. Each year, like so many others, I performed the Christmas triathlon , and ended up sick or tired or both. After a few Sisyphean seasons, most of us realized that the more we outdid ourselves, the more we were outdone. I cried uncle.
As the late Laurie Colwin once wrote : ” it Is my opinion that Norman Rockwell and his ilk have done more to make already anxious people feel guilty than anyone else,” It was up to us, she said, to re-invent traditions to make for what she called life’s great luxury-time together.”
pp. 166-67 ‘Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol’, by Ann Dowsett Johnston, Harper Perennial, 2013.
To that I say, Amen. Pass the cranberry sauce.
Enjoy your celebration (however you choose to do so)
Making the time to practice self-care can be challenging when you’re a caregiver, but taking even 5 minutes to do something for yourself can make all the difference in how you feel. Here are a few ideas for ways to practice self-care in less than five minutes, taken from out Jan/Feb Family Caregivers Grapevine.
Sing along at the top of your lungs to a song in the car.
Dance to a song you love in your living room.
Set a timer for 5 minutes and write in a journal.
Stretch! Lift your arms above your head. Roll your head from side to side. Try gentle lunges or rotate your wrists and ankles.
Take some deep breaths! Fill up your lungs and stomach with as much air as you can. Pause, and push it all out! Pause, and repeat.
As we’ve mentioned before, and as you probably already know, the holidays can be stressful for caregivers. Luckily, there are many ways to reduce and manage holiday-associated stress! Here are a few ideas taken from previous blog posts:
Use one (or more!) of these 98 ways to practice self-care.
Do this guided loving kindness meditation.
Bonus tip: Remember to reach out if you need to connect. NSCR is hosting one last group in 2017! Join us for our Walk & Talk on Monday, December 18th. Details here.
Here are two Australian mental health websites that might help:
This is an interactive website that teaches people to use ways of thinking that will help to prevent depression. It is based on CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).
Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression
This site has three sections: self-help, support for professionals and research. It includes a depression quiz, information about effective treatments, suggestions for planning activities and problem solving, a list of pleasant activities, and cognitive behavior therapy materials and links. The downloadable fact sheets on depression are particularly useful
See also ‘This Way Up’ a self-help course available on mobile devices.
Hope this was helpful for you. A lot of good work on mental health has come out in Australia recently.
Here is the long-awaited recipe for Nigella Lawson’s Ginger Passion fruit Trifle:
400-500g Store-bought sponge cake (usually two loaves)
125 ml Green Ginger Wine (or any dessert wine, or for kid version 125 ml orange juice)
500 ml whipping cream
4 teaspoons icing sugar
8 passion fruit (sliced mango will also do)
Slice or break the sponge and arrange half of them in a shallow dish or cake stand with slight lip or upward curve at edge, then pour half of wine (or juice) over them. Mound up the remaining half of sponge and pour the remaining wine on top.
Whip the cream with the icing sugar until it is firm but not stiff, you want soft peaks.
Scoop the insides of 2 passion fruit into the bowl of cream and fold in before mounding the cream floppily over the soused sponge.
Scoop out the remaining 6 passion fruit onto the white pile of cream so that it is doused and dribbling with the black seeds and fragrant golden pulp.
How do you like my picture of a yummy dessert?
It’s called ‘trifle’ and it comes from Britain, and it’s traditional every holiday season. Doesn’t it scream holidays to you?
I have a great recipe for ‘Ginger Passionfruit Trifle’ (yum!) from famous TV chef Nigella Lawson’s book ‘Nigella Express’ (2007).
I’d like to give you the full recipe, and I will, just not today. I promise I’ll post it on December 20th, just in time to do some last-minute food shopping (in fact, there are only 4 ingredients, so easy-peazy right?)
PS A bit tired today, mother’s sick.
It’s December 6th and the holiday season is well under way. How are you feeling?
This time of year can be nurturing, love-filled and warm. It can also be hectic, stressful, and sad. There’s a lot of pressure to attend events, buy presents, and make food. Balancing the stresses of the holidays with your caregiving role can be especially challenging.
Here are a few tips for staying calm over the holiday season:
SAY NO | Does agreeing to attend dinner at a friend’s house bring a lump to your throat? Politely decline.
PRACTICE MINDFUL CONSUMPTION | One of the biggest causes of stress over the holiday season is the pressure to buy and give gifts. If you’re strapped financially, this pressure and stress can increase. Despite the incessant messages sent from media, the holidays should be about connecting and celebrating with family and friends, not about gifts. Consider talking to your family about skipping presents this year and sharing a meal instead. If your family feels compelled to give and receive gifts, try planning a “secret santa” so you only have to give and receive one present, with a capped dollar amount. You might find that your family is relieved to have a different option presented!
EAT CALMING FOODS | If you’re feeling frazzled and then consume a lot of sweets, heavy meals, and alcohol offered, you’re likely going to feel worse than you did before. Indulging in the fruits of the holiday season is great in healthy amounts, but remember to eat mindfully and support your system with nutritious, balanced meals.
CONNECT | Amidst the business of the holiday season, you might be feeling lonely or isolated if you’ve recently experienced loss, or if you’re spending most of your time caring for a loved one. As mentioned, I invite you to say no to events that don’t serve your spirit. Say yes to events that do. Pushing yourself a little out of your comfort zone and connecting with caregivers who understand and support your journey can make a big difference in how you view the holiday season. Tip: NSCR’s December Network Groups include a potluck! We’d love to see you there.
How do you stay calm over the holidays? We’d love to hear from you!
Cassandra Van Dyck
Feelings of anxiety can become part of everyday life when you have a big responsibility in tending to another person’s well-being. When your spouse is ill or your parents are declining in their ability to manage their home life, you might feel worried about their safety for most of your waking hours.
When your nerves are frazzled and you can’t imagine feeling relaxed ever again, it helps to have a few calming tools in your back pocket. I suggest picking one or two ideas and trying them to see what fits with your personality and daily routines.
Stay open. Try an idea from the list several times before deciding if it’s helpful. New habits take practice!
Be patient with your progress. It may take a few times to start feeling more calm, or even a tiny bit less tense.
Mark your successes. Notice and be proud of the small moments of peacefulness you experience in your mind and body.
Sit upright in a comfortable chair. Close your eyes. Make note of your feet being secure on the ground.
Put one hand gently on your heart, and the other hand on your tummy. Sit and breathe easily, breathing in for 3 seconds, and out for 5. Keep your hands in place.
Lay down on the couch and set your timer for 2 minutes. Breathe without much concentration. Picture yourself on a boat in calm waters, being gently rocked by the soothing waves. You are safe in the boat. Send your anxiety far out to sea, the strained thoughts getting further away with each breath.
Create a worry box. It can be a shoe box or something simple. You might want to decorate it with your own style. Take small pieces of blank paper and have them nearby.
For 2 minutes a day, write down what is worrying you. Write without stopping.
Put those worries in the box and close the lid. Don’t open the worry box until tomorrow, when it’s your planned “worry time”. Notice how you feel after doing the writing- is there a difference in your body? Your mind?
I hope some of these exercises will help you to regain a sense of inner balance and strength when life feels especially trying. Here is an excellent source for 1-minute meditations by Robin Rice- www.robinrice.com . You may also have a cell phone relaxation app that you like to use.
Be well today.