How to Get the Bounce Back In Your Step

 

‘Bounce Back is a program of CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association) and is free of charge. If you get your doctor to refer you to this program, you will receive workbooks and will get 5 telephone sessions with a coach, however this is not the same as counselling. Bounce Back is proven effective at relieving mild to moderate depression (with or without anxiety). The other option you have if you choose not to do the coaching is to watch the free DVD (available at North Shore Community Resources and most Doctor’s offices). The DVD is entitled ‘Living Life To The Full’ and features people who have experienced depression and anxiety. I found, that as I listened to their stories, I realized that I was not alone and that help was available. It is also inspiring to learn that there is hope, if you use the strategies taught in the DVD. Strategies such as problem-solving and assertiveness. But don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself.

You can obtain more information about this helpful program at:

Https://northwestvancouver.cmha.bc.ca

Https://CMHA.bc.ca/programs-sevices/bounce-back

As the French say: ‘Bon courage!’ (Which means have courage).

 

Calm Pond

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Blue January and re-discovering gentleness

Just like some people have the Sunday night and Monday morning blues I get January blues. For me they initially manifest as relationship or career issues, such as blaming my husband and/or finding fault in my work performance. Yet they generally reveal a mini existential crisis where I find myself questioning my reason for being. I get weighed down by expectations and ask myself, “I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing”; or “Life is too hard, why am I here?”

It took me several years to pick up this pattern and I now have coping strategies in place to help me along the way. Now I treat January as a gentle month.

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Tools for self-gentleness

  1. One of the most helpful tools I use is to become very aware of the expectations I have of myself. I notice that, like many people I know, I am quite driven and have a lot of goals to guide my busy life. So I choose to make New Year resolutions that will support me to feel more fulfilled rather than adding more potentially stress-producing goals. For example, I might choose the goal to congratulate myself at the end of the day for the things I did well that day, or soak in an inviting bath or allow myself to indulge in whatever makes me feel good.
  2. As well as having these supportive resolutions in place, I also respond gently and with kindness when I am not able to be my best; like I would respond to a friend.  Often when I fall short of my expectations, my initial reaction may be quite harsh, so I use my experiences as a work in progress and allow myself to make mistakes. Then again, I can question whose definition of ‘right’ I am trying to live up to. Best of all, I do this on every Monday throughout the year.

The act of modifying my normal demands of life until I feel like I have firm footing once again is an act of self-love that helps me glide into the year more gently. By the time February comes along I usually have touched into a deeper connection with life that flows through me. This plan works for me. You might like to create a plan with whatever tools work for you, remembering that we are human and we will have times that we don’t stick with our plan. When that happens we have a choice; will we choose to default to being hard on ourselves, or will we choose a lighter response of acceptance and forgiveness?
I find myself tuning back in with the larger picture, and letting go of my petty or not-so big struggles.

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-Linda Jane Jervis
Volunteer Caregiver Coach with NSCR’s Caregiver Support Program. Thank you Linda, for bringing your insight and positive energy to the time you spend with our caregivers.

In Praise of Hygge

candle light

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).

Reflecting on 2017

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“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

On Re-inventing Christmas

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)

Calm Pond

Moving from isolation to connection: Give when it hurts

When we talk to teenagers about giving back to the community through volunteerism, we run through all the obvious benefits: building a resume, learning employable skills, getting a letter of reference for future work and scholarship opportunities. But why should older adults volunteer? When I chat with seniors in our community, some latch onto the idea that volunteering is best left to the kids; after all they are energetic and have lots of time. While this may or may not be the case, I am always quick to remind them that seniors who volunteer in the community may not need to ensure they have a job reference anymore, but they probably do want ensure a more connected and less lonely future.

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When I think of the seniors I know who are also caregivers in the community, those who give unconditionally often at the expense of their own health, I wonder where they fit into this discussion. Family caregivers suffer an especially acute form of isolation and loneliness after years of caring for a loved one, one that is often coupled with fatigue and burnout. They are tired. The idea of doing more is ill-making. It is true, that when we’re in the midst of the crisis, adding to our workload isn’t wise.  That said, for some caregivers, an opportunity to connect in a different context is also an opportunity to break out of the isolation and might just help to establish their own social safety net.

Volunteering might just be the best inoculation against isolation we have

The seniors who volunteer with us don’t come because they are passionate about making coffee litres at a time. They don’t arrive because washing dishes is their favourite pastime or reading to a child is their long- lost calling. They come because when they are here, they are known and appreciated. They connect with friends and neighbours for an hour or two and they get caught up on one another’s lives. When they take this small action they are breaking out of that vacuum of isolation. For caregivers, this type of volunteering might be thought of as respite in motion.

Give an hour to stave off loneliness

 Some of our volunteers come to us newly widowed looking for a way to move on, often paralyzed with grief. Some move into the community to be closer to family and don’t know a soul, while others have children and grandchildren and friends who have moved away and are less reachable. Whatever the reason, all of them are living with the growing awareness that with aging comes a new kind of loneliness they may not have anticipated just a few years earlier when life felt busy and over-full. However, for seniors who give even a few hours once a month, new friendships with people having similar experiences is a welcome gift. So often we see how these connections become a network of support:  our volunteers notice each other’s absences and changes in health and are quick to check in on each other’s well-being. Bonds are forged through service and coffee cups that sustain these friends and neighbours through the ups and downs that life brings.

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The hardest part is showing up

Many of us count ourselves out of volunteering because we are certain that we have no skill or ability that could possibly be of help. Maybe we are new to the country and English is not our first language. Some of us are afraid of the unknown, afraid of not fitting in, of not having fun or not getting it right. I promise you there is something for everyone in all sorts of community organizations across the North Shore. If you haven’t volunteered before, or you haven’t in a while, consider this your invitation to try.

-Erin Smith

Erin is the Manager of Seniors’ Services at Parkgate Community Services Society in North Vancouver. The thoughts and opinions in this article come from her own experience and hope while working in community.

You can contact Erin or learn more about programs at the vibrant Parkgate Centre here:  esmith@myparkgate.com
www.myparkgate.com

7 Tips for dealing with change

mindful mountain

Here are 7 helpful steps to dealing with change, brought to you by an Australian mental health website:

  1. Ask yourself: What’s the worst thing that can happen?
  2. Ask yourself how much you can control (when a big change occurs, it’s important to consider how much control over the situation you really have)
  3. Accept and reframe: accept that there are things beyond your control, being comfortable with that fact will bring greater peace and comfort.
  4. Celebrate the positives. The positive aspects of the situation may not seem obvious, but you can seek them out.
  5. If the unwanted change is within your control, take an active approach to dealing with it.  Develop action plans.
  6. Manage your stress. Practice mindfulness or meditation, or engage in other relaxation techniques.
  7. Seek support: it is perfectly normal to seek support if the change you’re facing is really big. There are always others in similar situations and professionals available to help.

Finally, my own little piece of wisdom: “the only constant is change.”

It also helps to conjure up the image of a mountain: though many storms may fall on the mountain it endures, it always  endures.

Be well,

Calm Pond

Review of: ‘They can’t find anything wrong!’

What do you do when you feel ill, and go to the doctor, but all the tests come out normal?  In his book ‘They can’t find anything wrong! : 7 Keys to understanding, treating, and healing illness’, Dr. David D. Clarke (Sentient, 2007) addresses just that issue.

Here are some things you need to know if you find yourself in that situation:

  1. The 5 Types of Stress:
  • childhood stress
  • stress occurring now
  • stress from a traumatic event
  • depression
  • anxiety disorders

2. Next here are the 7 keys:

  • understand that your symptoms can be diagnosed and treated
  • search for the sources of stress
  • care for yourself
  • get better by writing
  • employ appropriate therapies
  • overcome resistance
  • become the person you were always meant to be

Here is something you might like to try:

Make a Hero Award for Yourself:

Before you make the Hero Award, it is sometimes useful to list every difficulty you’ve endured. Put the card where you will see it every day. Keep the card until you no longer need it as a reminder.  Keep it for years or as long as you need it. (I made my Hero Card on an ordinary index card using coloured pencils.)

It may be helpful to write a letter to a parent that caused you stress.  You can write it to an imaginary child that could have gone through the same stress as you did, and comfort that child.

Here’s more advice from Dr Clarke:

Take 5 hours per week for personal self-care.  Many people find it helps to leave the house during this time so you don’t get distracted by unfinished work.

For more info, consult Dr. Clarke’s website

Take good care,

Calm Pond

3 Ways to Build Resilience

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“You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and and belonging.” – Brene Brown

How do you react when times get tough?

Your loved one’s health is declining. You have a growing to-do list and feel that you have no support. Money is tight. You’re having trouble finding respite. You’re having a hard time getting enough sleep. 

There are so many stressful situations and obstacles that come with your caregiving role that are not within your control. Although you can’t always prevent tough situations from occurring, you can decide how to respond to them.

The ability to recover and respond to a challenging situation is called resilience. Some people seem to have it in spades, while others struggle to bounce back from setbacks. Your ability to be resilient is based on lots of things – the way you were raised, your unique disposition, and your current challenges. Some days you might feel very resilient, and others you think you can’t handle one more thing. You might be going through a particularly hard time because of recent changes or challenges. There are a lot variables.

No matter where you’re at, there are things that you can do to boost your resiliency. Read on for 3 suggestions.

CRY | No, really. Remember that resiliency does not mean that you are not effected by the tough things that are happening in your life. You do not need to shut out emotions or pretend that everything is okay when you  feel underneath that it is not. In fact, doing so can make things worse. It is important to be able to express emotions and to be able to reach out for help when you need it. Resiliency is the ability to bounce back; it is not the denial of emotions. Resiliency requires vulnerability. The better you are able to experience and feel tough emotions, the easier you will be able to move on from them and reach out for support.

CONNECT | Who do you call when you need to talk? If they’re not available, who’s your back up? Try creating a plan for yourself to refer to when you feel that you’ve reached the end of your rope. Write a list or create a map of your support network. Add family, friends, professionals, and network groups. Resiliency does not mean going it alone. Having support when you need it will help you to work through hardships so you can move forward.

PRACTICE SELF-CARE | We talk about self-care a lot, and for good reason! You cannot expect to respond to challenging situations with resiliency if you are not taking care of yourself. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising. Make time do the things that you love.

Cassandra Van Dyck

Pain, inevitable; Suffering, optional

The other day I was reading Anais Nin’s diaries and came across this quote:

” The secret of joy lies in the mastery of pain.”

Of course, as the saying goes: “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”

It is not the pain, but the aversion to pain, that causes suffering.

It works out too this simple equation: Pain + aversion=suffering.

In the Buddha’s 4 Noble Truths, individuals are prompted to acknowledge the simple inevitability of suffering.  That said, in the Western world, we have access to treatments for both physical and emotional pain, and we have every right to seek them.  For me, I take an over-the-counter medication called ‘Antistax’ for achy legs.

And oddly, in my experience at least, it is not my own pain and suffering that is so unbearable, but the pain and suffering of the loved ones in my life.  Is this true for you also?

Wishing you well,

Calm Pond