Making Time for Self-Care

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“I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.” – Audre Lorde

It may seem almost too obvious to even state: caring for a loved one takes a huge amount of energy, time, and resources. Your care partner’s health and well-being likely takes up much of your thoughts and might leave you wondering what happened to old friends or hobbies. Although acceptance of where you’re at is helpful for your emotional well-being, it is also important that you pursue some of those passions and stay in touch with your friends. Connecting socially and doing what lights you up is a way to practice self-care, and as we know by now, practising self-care is crucial if you wish to be able to care for your loved one long term.

Today, I offer you a challenge. First, I want you to think of one friend that always makes you feel good, and get in touch with them. Send an email, or call them up on the phone. Even if you don’t feel that you have time to meet with them in person, take 10 minutes to write to them or speak with them on the phone. Second, think of something you do that lights you up. For some it could be painting, for others it might be hiking or swimming. Look at your calendar, and make a plan to do that activity for at least an hour sometime in the next two weeks. Once you’ve planned it out – stick to it.

We’d love to hear from you once you’ve completed one or two of these challenges. What were the barriers to taking time for self-care? How did you feel after? If you regularly take time to see friends or to do the things you love, how do you make time?

 

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3 ways to practice gratitude

Life can draw our attention in several different directions, and with all that is to be done day-to-day, there may be little room left for sitting to enjoy the moment.
The busyness and ongoing strain involved with caregiving for a spouse, parent or family member can be the cause of major stress, burnout, and more hectic days than you would prefer. In the midst of responding to all that asks for your time and energy, I invite you to make gratitude a regular part of your routine. Focusing on what makes you feel happy, energized, and peaceful really does help in keeping your brain and body healthy.
Beautifully, a gratitude practice doesn’t have to take very long and can fit into your life however you choose.

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Here are a few ideas to get you started-

  1. When you go for a walk, say “thank you” or “You help me feel calm and happy” out loud to the trees and flowers. You can start by saying thanks in your head if that is more comfortable. Pick any positive phrase that you like!

2.  Keep a gratitude jar in your home, and write down 3 things every day that you are glad to have in your life. You can do this in the morning to start the day with an inspiring focus, or at night as you unwind from the day.

3.  Put on your favourite music, whether that be instrumental songs or music with an uplifting beat. Dance around your living room for 5 minutes, focusing on what made you feel safe, happy or loved that day.

This gem of a website shares a whole list of book ideas on gratefulness: https://gratefulness.org/resource/books-related-to-gratitude/

We would love to hear about your current gratitude practice! Feel free to share what has been inspiring for you.

-Karyn

How to Find Happiness In Your Darkest Days

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“I just want to be happy.”

“I just want her/him/them to be happy.” 

These are sentences you’ve most likely spoken yourself, or heard someone else say. Happiness can feel like a goal we need to work towards, or an elusive resting place we can’t quite get back to. It can feel unattainable, or lost, or be ridden with emotions like guilt. Happiness, or the lack there of, can be a difficult emotion to manage because it’s often written or spoken about a feeling we need to achieve, or that it’s something we do or do not deserve to have.

Family Caregivers often have a complicated relationship with happiness. You might find yourself looking back on “happier times” and wishing they were more frequent today, or you could catch yourself thinking of the future when you’ll feel more happiness than you do today. You could experience guilt for feeling happy when your loved one is suffering, or resentment for thinking you’re not able to be happy because of your caregiving responsibilities.

So much that happens in our life, no matter how we shake it, is not within our control. What we can control, is how we react in the face of it all. That being said, no one is going to feel happy all the time. Hard things happen, and experiencing the highs and lows of those events help us to build resilience and shape our personalities. Learning how to tap in to and experience happiness when we’re not at our absolute best is a skill, and it can be practiced and learned.

You can’t control how your loved one’s health will be this afternoon any more than you can change the accident on the road that’s preventing you from getting to your doctor’s appointment on time. Here are some things you can do today to experience those desired, and deserved, happy feelings.

PRACTICE GRATITUDE | We talk about this a lot in our newsletter and on the blog because it truly is such a life-changing practice. “Where your mind goes energy flows,” said Ernest Holmes. When you focus on the negative, you’ll feel unhappy. When you focus on the positive, you’ll feel happier. At the end of last year I was gifted the idea of using the calendar pages of my day planner to record the best part of my day. Prompting my brain and heart to find that happy moment from even the worst of days can turn my mood around quite quickly, and looking back at a month of wonderful moments is uplifting.

PRACTICE MINDFULNESS | This is also something we talk about so often, and for good reason! Shifting your attention to the present moment can shake up your thoughts and move them away from fears about tomorrow, or regret from yesterday. Take a moment to do a grounding exercise where you are, right now. A trick I like to use when I catch my mind wandering away to a negative place is to immediately focus in on something I appreciate about the moment I’m in. It could be as simple as a comfortable sweater, or noticing that a couple is sharing a loving moment at a nearby table.

CONNECT | Meaningful relationships enrich our lives. They make us feel safe and heard, and those special people who really “get us” also make us laugh, which is a pretty big part of happiness, wouldn’t you say? Schedule time with people that make you feel good in the same way you would make a doctor’s appointment, or buy groceries. It is self-care, and it’s important! If you think you’d benefit from connecting with other caregivers, try out a network group.

 

Cassandra Van Dyck

Tips on Managing Worry Without Medication

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The following tips come from the book “Worry: Hope and Help for a Common Condition” by Edward Hallowell (2002)

  1. Get the facts-base worry on reality.
  2. Exercise at least every other day.
  3. Analyze the problem and take corrective action.
  4. Ask for advice.
  5. Pray or meditate.
  6. Add structure to your life when you need it! (A basket for your house keys.)
  7. Turn off your doom and gloom generator.
  8. Don’t watch too much TV or read too many newspapers or magazines.
  9. Maintain a reserve cash fund.
  10. Make a will.
  11. Learn how to give up a worry (appeal to your higher power).
  12. Take a holiday or mini-break.
  13. Sing, recite a nursery rhyme, or the alphabet
  14. Read.
  15. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  16. Remember that nothing lasts forever, even worry.

Hope this helps!

Calm Pond

10 Ways to Survive Pet Loss

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In the days, weeks, and months that follow losing a cherished pet, you may feel a huge hole inside.  Grief can make it hard to think and plan.  Here are some survival tips that might help (courtesy of Moira Anderson Allen (2001)

  1. Eat something (preferably something that makes you feel good.)
  2. Cry (take a day off, maybe?)
  3. Find something to do ( it helps you recognize that while grief is part of your life, it isn’t the sum total of your life.)
  4. Count your blessings (remind yourself of some of the good things you still have.)
  5. Reflect on things that don’t involve your pet (the skills you have, the things you enjoy: like taking long walks or a warm bath.)
  6. Cuddle something furry (another pet or a stuffed animal)
  7. Avoid irrevocable decisions (don’t do anything you can’t undo, resist throwing out all your pet’s toys, get them away, out of sight, you might want to incorporate them into a memorial later on)
  8. Replace negative imagery (Replace the images of the ‘last’ moments with your pet with images of your pet arriving on the ‘other side’, if you believe in an afterlife)
  9. Be honest with yourself (you will heal and it will take time)
  10. Make a decision to work through grief (sometimes, time doesn’t ‘heal all wounds’, as the saying goes. Accept your grief, make peace with it.)

For more information on how to heal from pet loss, see pet loss net

Calm Pond (who speaks from one who has been there)

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

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

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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).

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