The ‘Guest House’ by Rumi

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‘The ‘Guest House’ by 13th century Persian poet Rumi

This being human is a guest house

Every morning a new arrival

A joy, a depression, a meanness

Some momentary awareness

Comes as an unexpected visitor

 

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re scared of sorrows

Who violently sweep your house

Empty of its furniture

Still treat each guest honorably

He may be cleaning you out

For some new delight!

 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice

Meet them at the door laughing

And invite them in

Be grateful for whoever comes

Because each has been sent

As a guide from beyond

 

So ‘Welcome and entertain them all!’ The kaleidoscope of feelings that passes through us every day; the ever-changing weather of emotions: sunshine, rain, windstorms, and even tsunamis.

Watch for upcoming post ‘The People On the Bus’ mindfulness exercise, as follow-up to this poem.

Calm Pond

 

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Blue Monday: How to Prevent Isolation

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I was driving to work this morning, sniffling and scrambling for a tissue to dry my running nose, when I heard the radio announcer say that today is “Blue Monday,” supposedly the saddest day of the year. Oh dear.

Dr. Cliff Arnall coined the term and marked the third Monday of January Blue Monday based on the following “scientific” formula: [W+(D-d)]xTQ/MxNA – where W is weather, D is debt, d monthly salary, T time since Christmas, Q time since failure of attempt to give something up, M low motivational level and NA the need to take action.

Whether you buy in to the formula or not, it is hard to dispute that a lot of people feel down at this time of year. The reasons for low mood are different for everyone, but a common thread is isolation.

When people think about isolation, they often think of it physically. If you are a caregiver and rarely have time to yourself, you might not be aware that you are suffering from isolation. It is very common for people to feel isolated even when they are around people every day. Caregivers give so much to the people they care for, and while there is so much benefit to doing so for caregivers and their care partners, it can also be an isolating pursuit.

The antithesis to isolation is connection. Not sure how to change your situation? Read on and follow these three steps to de-isolate and get connected.

STEP ONE: TAKE INVENTORY | How are you doing? Take some time to write in a journal, to go for a walk by yourself, or to just sit with your thoughts. Really take the time to think about how you’re feeling. When was the last time you laughed with a friend? When was the last time you cried with someone else and felt that you were supported? When was the last time you felt that you were really understood and heard?

STEP TWO: FIND YOUR RESOURCES| If you have a person or people in your life that lift you up, reach out to them, even if you haven’t in awhile. Pick up the phone or send them an email, and let them know that you’d love to set a time to get together. Consider meeting with a local network group to connect with other caregivers. You might find that talking with other people who are experiencing similar emotions and situations to be incredibly comforting.

STEP THREE: MAKE A PLAN | Are you worried about taking time away from your loved one? This fear can leave a lot of caregivers feeling stuck. If you have never sought respite, it can feel overwhelming and scary. Taking a break is essential for your well-being. If you are concerned or unsure of how to take seek respite for your care partner, read this post.

Coping with sadness

When you’re on duty all of the time, making sure your spouse’s or aging parent’s needs are looked after, the reality may be that you’re often feeling exhausted and over-stretched. Being in a state of constant responsibility and vigilance can leave little room to acknowledge the sadness that is likely there beneath the surface.
Sadness. This can be an uncomfortable emotion to name and acknowledge, even with close friends and family; and a hard one to simply be with- yet feelings of sadness and sorrow are commonly felt by caregivers.

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Why sadness can be present:
Shifting closeness.
You likely don’t feel connected with your loved one in exactly the same way as before. You probably miss the closeness of having honest conversations, relying on eachother for back-up, and enjoying simple activities together.

Feeling alone.
When you’re the main person in charge of a spouse or parent’s care, you’re at the helm of the ship, and that can feel downright lonely. Siblings, friends and family members may not fully understand what you’re going through, and won’t be able to offer kindness and support in the specific ways you need.

Loss of dreams.
When a loved one has a significant health issue, it becomes difficult or impossible to enliven the dreams and plans you shared. If you were looking forward to retirement together, it feels sad when instead you’re adjusting to this new reality after your husband or wife’s stroke or cancer diagnosis. If your career was in full swing, you may now be required to scale back the hours you’re working, or to give up a position you were excited about.

In the sadness, remember:

Let it be there. Allow yourself a portion of time every day or every week to simply feel your sadness, and to express it. You might write in a journal, sit and reflect, cry along with a heartfelt song, or watch a movie that you resonate with. Allow the melting away of any resistance you may have towards feelings of sadness.

Connect with your strength.  Feeling sad or sorrowful doesn’t make you a weak person. In fact, those who can acknowledge and express sadness demonstrate an inner strength through their willingness to take a closer look at their situation.  There is an authenticity in feeling as you feel, and not pushing yourself to pretend that everything is smooth and easy when in fact the journey is disheartening, brutally hard, and filled with grief.

Show kindness to yourself. Find one thing you can do every day that makes you feel grounded, loved, or glad in some way.  This act of kindness can be small, such as drinking your favourite tea from a mug that you like; playing a song every morning to get your energy going; or saying no to a friend’s request for extra help when you feel tired. Find your one thing. You are worthy of kindness!

For a guided meditation to surround you with loving presence, try listening to Tara Brach: https://www.tarabrach.com/meditation-body-love/

A photo by Gaetano Cessati. unsplash.com/photos/b1v6dw7W0wc

Here’s to gentleness for self, in all of your experiences.
Karyn

5 Symptoms of Burnout and How to Prevent It

A photo by Volkan Olmez. unsplash.com/photos/wESKMSgZJDoWHAT IS BURNOUT?

You might have said or heard someone say that they feel “burnt out” after a long hike or several task-filled days. Chances are that there is some self-awareness in this personal observation. The person knows that they’re tired and that they will now have to rest to get back to feeling their best.

Unfortunately, experiencing burnout is much more serious. It often creeps up on caregivers who have not been practising self-care and the mindfulness needed to know that they need to slow down and get support.

According to HelpGuide.org, “burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place. Burnout reduces productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give.”

5 SYMPTOMS OF BURNOUT*

CHRONIC FATIGUE | “In the early stages, you may feel a lack energy and feel tired most days. In the latter stages, you feel physically and emotionally exhausted, drained, and depleted, and you may feel a sense of dread for what lies ahead on any given day.”

FORGETFULNESS/IMPAIRED CONCENTRATION AND MEMORY | “Lack of focus and mild forgetfulness are early signs. Later, the problems may get to the point where you can’t get your work done and everything begins to pile up.”

INCREASED ILLNESS | “Because your body is depleted, your immune system becomes weakened, making you more vulnerable to infections, colds, flu, and other immune-related medical problems.”

ANXIETY | “Early on, you may experience mild symptoms of tension, worry, and edginess. As you move closer to burnout, the anxiety may become so serious that it interferes in your ability to work productively and may cause problems in your personal life.”

ANGER | “At first, this may present as interpersonal tension and irritability. In the latter stages, this may turn into angry outbursts and serious arguments at home and in the workplace.”

If you are reading this and feel that you are already experiencing burnout, you must get help immediately. Visit your family doctor or see a counsellor of therapist to get support and create a path to wellness.

HOW TO PREVENT BURNOUT

We regularly encourage caregivers to learn and practice the skills needed to take care of themselves so that they can take care of their loved ones. Practicing self-care is a journey, and it is common to at times feel that you are taking care of yourself as well as you could be, and at other times to be struggling. That said, there are lots of things that you can regularly do to prevent burnout. Here are a few tips:

PRACTICE GOOD SLEEP HYGIENE | Drink calming teas, turn off screens an hour before sleeping, and avoid stimulants like caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime.

EXERCISE | Just half an hour of gentle exercise a day can ease stress, promote sleep, and aid digestion. Park further away from your destinations, or go for a short walk after your morning coffee. Find creative ways to fit activity in to your day.

DELEGATE | You can not do it all alone. If you are lucky, you have friends and family that help care for your loved one. Talk to them and let them know that you could use some more support. Be specific, and delegate tasks and chores. If you do not feel that you have friends and family to ask for support from, you still have options. Look in to low-cost home care services or respite.

What do you do to practice self-care and prevent burnout? We’d love for you to share your perspective with our caregiving community!

 

Cassandra Van Dyck

*From Psychology Today.

In Praise of Hygge

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Hygge, pronounced ‘hooga’, could be defined in a number of ways, such as:

  • ‘the art of creating intimacy’
  • cosiness
  • creating a soothing atmosphere
  • ‘cocoa by candlelight’

In Canada, we have our own concept of hygge. We call it: ‘hominess’. Other cultures have similar concepts.

Actually, the idea of hygge goes back a long way, to Denmark in the early 1800s, but the word is originally Norwegian.

Here are 10 aspects of hygge:

  1. Atmosphere
  2. Presence (switch off your phone)
  3. Pleasure (coffee, chocolate etc.)
  4. Equality (‘we over me’)
  5. Gratitude (this is as good as it gets)
  6. Harmony (‘no need to brag about your accomplishments’)
  7. Comfort (warm blankets, sheepskin rugs)
  8. Truce (‘let’s discuss politics another day’)
  9. Togetherness (build relationships, connection)
  10. Shelter (bask in the comfort of your home, however humble)

Hopefully, you enjoyed  a little ‘hyggeness’ during the holidays.  But you can enjoy hygge anytime, though winter is especially ‘hygge-like’. (Think cups of cocoa sipped in front of the fireplace.)

Let us all bring a little more hygge into our lives,

Calm Pond

PS If you really want to get into hygge, see Meik Wiking’s book ‘The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well’ (Penguin, 2016).