What if…? How to Overcome Anticipatory Anxiety.

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“Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is a freedom.” – Marilyn Ferguson

On your caregiving journey, you will need to make an incredible amount of decisions, and you will be faced with many questions. There will be decisions about your loved one’s treatment plans, questions about their living situations, and decisions about end-of-life care. You will also be faced with questions about what you can manage, such as accessing respite for your loved one or involving another family member or professional in their care. These decisions and questions, though often hard to make, are manageable with the right support and consideration. The question that is hardest is one that every caregiver will ask themselves at some point, and it is unanswerable. “What if…?”

What if my husband get sick while he’s in staying overnight in a respite facility?

What if the treatment plan doesn’t work?

What if my wife is in pain and I can’t help?

What if my mother is unhappy in assisted living?

What if my father can’t remember my name?

These are the questions that keep us awake at night. They make our palms sweaty and our hearts race and they make tears come to our eyes. It can be terrifying to think of all the tough things that could happen.

“Anticipatory anxiety is the anxiety we experience with the initial thought and anticipation of doing something,” explains Lucinda Bassett.* In other words, we are looking forward, the same way we are when we need to make plans or decisions, but we are anticipating something bad happening. We are scared of what could happen in the future and we are worried about losing control. “The truth is that the actual situation is never as bad or as anxiety-producing as the anticipation,” says Bassett. “Nothing is ever as bad as you expect it will be. The anticipation is most often the worst part.”

 

Ground

The first thing to do when you’re experiencing anticipatory anxiety is to ground yourself in the present moment. “Your fears are all about losing control. If you want to stay in control, stay in the present instead of projecting into the future,” advises Bassett.

Interrupt the “what if” questions with others about the present moment.

Who is here with me?

What am I touching?

What do I smell?

What do I see?

What do I feel?

 

Worst Case Scenarios

It may seem counter productive, but sometimes when you’re anxious, taking yourself through a worst case scenario can be what helps you to overcome your worry. Let’s use the first “what if” question we talked about as an example.

What if my husband get sick while he’s in staying overnight in a respite facility?

If your husband gets sick while he’s staying overnight in a respite facility, what would happen? 

Would the staff have the skills and resources they need to take care of him?

Would another family member or friend come to be with your husband?

Would you be able to speak to your husband on the phone if he needed someone to talk to?

Asking ourselves these questions helps to break down the worries and figure out what we can prepare for, and what we cannot.

 

Best Case Scenarios

Once you’re feeling grounded, an exercise that can be helpful to deal with those nagging “what if” scenarios is to flip them around. Ask yourself the same question you did earlier, but finish the question with a positive possibility. For example…

What if my husband discovers an effective therapeutic treatment while in respite care?

What if the treatment plan helps with my friend’s mobility issues?

What if my wife is in pain and I have the tools I need to support her?

What if my mother makes some new friends in assisted living?

What if my father and I develop new ways of connecting?

 

Try out these three methods for stopping anticipatory anxiety, and remember to connect with a counsellor, therapist, or a trusted friend or family member to work through your concerns and worries. You are not alone on your caregiving journey.

Cassandra

 

*Linda Bassett is the author of, “From Panic to Power: Proven Techniques to Calm Your Anxieties, Conquer Your Fears, and Put You In Control of Your Life.”

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How to be a Long-Distance Caregiver (& Move a Family Member)

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How does one provide care for a loved one who lives long-distance, in this case 3,500 km away?  That question came to a head for me a few weeks ago, when my mother, who has been becoming increasingly immobile and unsafe in her home, for many months and perhaps years, asked for my help.

I was fortunate to be able to say, ‘yes’.   I made plans for my family in my absence, and flew to Ontario to be with my mother for a few days.  I knew that this journey was going to end with my mother moving into an assisted living residence.

You can care give from afar by providing more than a physical presence. In caring for my mother, this has meant regular phone calls, to learn what was really going on for her, and how it affected her activities of daily living, and conference calls with my brothers to share information and make plans for future care.

For a few years now, my mom and the large part of the burden for her care has fallen on my two brothers, who live close by.  I am very fortunate that they are near, but they also need my support, and perhaps I too need to provide more support, to assuage the feelings of guilt I have had in not been able to share the load.

This is what I have learned along the journey.

As a long distance caregiver, you can provide care and emotional support from afar through phone calls and encouraging cards and notes.  You can help arrange meals, transportation, recreation and day care programs, and coordinate rides with family and friends to appointments or social events.  You can update family and friends on the status of your loved one.  I found that this eased the burden on my brothers, and was fulfilling, as it allowed me to use the skills I have developed in communication, empathy, and compassion.  You can also help with the household finances, bill-paying, and insurance benefits and claims.  On the care side of things, you can help arrange for housekeepers, personal support workers, home health care aids, friendly visitors, and other health care professionals to be brought in.  In essence, you can help your loved one navigate the system by providing them with local information and resources, and you also can enlist the help of family and friends.

In my instance, this help came from a gentle and patient family member, in whose company my mother did not feel judged.  The initial houseclean and haul out of garbage, recycling and items for the Salvation Army and Church Bazaar, was met with more requests for help through a dear family friend.  It was very interesting for me to watch the transformation of my mother’s behaviour, from being so attached to her home and its contents, to being accepting of change, and then asking for help, in order to ready herself, physically and emotionally, to leave her home.

When I arrived in Ontario, I saw my role as continuing with the cleaning and pack up process that had begun, while trying to make things fun, reliving memories while pouring over old family photos, and also making new memories.  Sharing memories helped draw us together, and provided us with much needed strength and support.

My mother is almost ready to move into her new home.  She has the security of knowing that she can take weekly visits back to her town home, before it is sold, to ensure she is leaving no stone or forgotten treasure unturned, and to say goodbye, in her time and at her pace.  When we speak on the phone, she never forgets to thank me for coming, and still jokes that she ‘wore me out’.  This experience we shared, fraught with vulnerability, definitely brought my mother and me closer together.

As a wise person once said, ‘information is the best prescription and laughter really is one of the best medicines’.

By guest blogger, Kathryn Seely, former nurse, mother, daughter and caregiver

Therapeutic Touch + Cassandra’s Trip to the Morphic Field

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My first introduction to Therapeutic Touch was during a Memories & More session that NSCR’s Caregiver Support program hosted a few years ago. Therapeutic Touch practitioners visited a session and offered a 15 minute treatment to caregivers who were currently supporting their loved ones’ journeys with dementia. I watched as the caregivers sat in a chair or laid down and closed their eyes. I saw the practitioners gently placing their hands on their arms, legs, and feet. It was different than watching someone get a massage. The treatment seemed calmer, gentler… if not a little ambiguous. What stuck in my mind was the shift in the caregivers’ energy after the treatment. They seemed to walk, breathe, and speak slower. Their shoulders were relaxed – like a weight had been lifted.

Fast forward three years when it’s suggested to me that I interview Therapeutic Touch practitioner Alex Jamieson to help inform more caregivers about this valuable therapy. I began my interview process as I usually do – by researching the subject to find out more. I quickly discovered that reading about Therapeutic Touch is a bit abstruse, much like witnessing a session. You know and understand that it’s a healing experience, but you’re not really sure why or how. “Therapeutic Touch is a contemporary interpretation of several ancient healing practices. It is an intentionally directed process of energy exchange during which the practitioner uses the hands as a focus to facilitate the healing process,” says the BC Therapeutic Touch Network Society. “The practitioner may apply light touch with permission during the Therapeutic Touch session or may simply move his/her hands a few inches from the body.” I was intrigued, but I wanted to learn more about how this treatment helps people heal.

Alex and I found time to speak on the phone, and I learned that Alex volunteers his time as a Therapeutic Touch practitioner entirely on a volunteer basis. (See Jamieson Bio, below). I asked Alex how he would describe Therapeutic Touch to someone who had no idea what it was. He told me that the best way to understand Therapeutic Touch was to experience it, and offered to gift a session to me. Of course, I accepted.

Alex greeted me at their front door and I noticed that I immediately felt a wash of calm come over me. We chatted for a few minutes and he showed me to their at-home treatment room. I laid down on the massage table and was covered in a warm blanket. Now, I have to break here to explain to the reader that although I had every intention of remembering each moment of the treatment, I don’t. I remember feeling gentle pressure on my shoulders, arms, legs and feet. I remember feeling resonating from Alex’s hands, though they weren’t touching. I felt very, very relaxed – more so as the treatment went on, which was only about 20 minutes in length. Near the end of the session, it felt as though my whole body was vibrating… like a tension was releasing that I didn’t even know I was holding on to. Alex came in after the session to check in with me and I explained my experience as best as I could. Alex said that when doing a body scan, he did not detect any pain or illness, but he did notice that my throat chakra seemed closed. “You’re a singer, aren’t you?” asked Alex. “Yes,” I responded. “You have to share your gift with people,” he said. Unexpectedly, I burst in to tears. How could he have known that for months prior I hadn’t been singing or writing music? It was amazing. I left feeling a little vulnerable, but also cared for and open. A healing had undoubtedly occurred.

My hope for caregivers reading this article is that you and your loved ones will experience a Therapeutic Touch session, if for nothing else than a chance to take a break and to let someone care for you.

 

Jamieson Bio

Alex and Brenda Jamieson have been practicing Therapeutic Touch (TT) for about 15 Years, and have also learned to utilize other modalities such as Heating Touch.  They are both comfortably retired, but still offer energy medicine sessions on a volunteer basis at Paul Sugar Palliative Centre in North Vancouver, at Evergreen House long term care residence, and elsewhere.

They first learned about the energy medicine used in the UK at churches where hands-on-healing was offered on a regular basis. After Brenda was helped by such a treatment, Alex began taking TT courses, and eventually Brenda joined in. They have many anecdotes of successful outcomes.

For example, they visited a man in St. Paul’s Hospital who had just had an operation for bowel cancer and was in extreme pain. They could feel the pain when they put their hands near his abdomen… They did a treatment and the next day he was off the morphine. “He had confirmed that it worked,” Alex explains, “but this is not magic, people can learn to heal themselves.  The energy comes from The Field, or from God, we are just channels” says Alex. “We never saw the guy with the cancer again, except we noticed him walking happily along Lonsdale one day…”

If you would like a session, Alex and Brenda recommend the following:

For more information on Therapeutic Touch, visit https://bctherapeutictouch.com/. On the North Shore, there are free “Practice Groups” on Thursdays.

For a Healing Touch session, see: http://www.healingtouchcanada.net/ or Contact Irma Jerusa at: irmajerusa@icloud.com or see: https://www.facebook.com/irmajeru/

Paul Sugar Palliative Centre offers free energy healing sessions for caregivers and patients every Monday and Wednesday. See http://www.palliativesupport.ca/sessions

 

 

 

 

 

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.