3 Book Recommendations for Caregivers

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Reading a good book can feel (almost) as good as a warm hug from someone you love. It can make you feel understood and comforted. It can give you ideas for how to tackle life’s challenges and empower you when you’re feeling down. A good book can make you laugh out loud and catch your tears.

For caregivers, reading a good book might be just what you need to help you wind down after a long day, or to fill some time while waiting for your loved one at doctor’s appointments. Not sure what to pick up? Read on for three suggestions.

THE DWINDLING: A DAUGHTER’S CAREGIVING JOURNEY TO THE EDGE OF LIFE, BY JANET DUNNETT | The Dwindling chronicles a ten-year caregiving journey of twin sisters Janet and Judi with their parents, Betty and Fred. This is a read filled with hope, laughter and bravery. PS – Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Janet Dunnett on the blog!

BURNOUT: THE COST OF CARING, BY CHRISTINA MASLACH | If you are a caregiver, you are at risk of burnout. Even if you feel that you are coping well, this is a must-read for anyone caring for a loved one. This book is filled with tips, symptoms, and strategies for preventing and recovering from burnout.

CAREGIVING: THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY OF LOVE, LOSS, AND RENEWAL, BY BETH WITROGEN MCLEOD |This book is helpful for anyone at the beginning of their caregiving journey, to get an overview of what they might expect and to learn tips for how to navigate the health care system and get support. For caregivers who have been on their journey for quite some time, this read can help with filling in the gaps they might be struggling with.

What books have helped you on your caregiving journey? We’d love to hear from you!

 

Cassandra Van Dyck

 

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Be Kind to Your Body

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What’s your relationship like with your body?

Our bodies do so much for us, don’t they? They carry us from place to place and help us to care for our loved ones. Most everyone would agree that a having a healthy body deeply impacts our quality of life.

When your body is not feeling great – when you’re sick or achy or injured or weak – it’s hard to feel  your best and be there for the people you love in the ways you’d like to be.

Like everything in life, some things are beyond your control, but many are not, and you always have the possibility of deciding how you respond to adversity.

Generally speaking, our bodies respond well when we treat them kindly.

How are you treating your body? Here are some things to think about.

Eat Well | Nobody’s perfect, and one of my favourite sayings is, “Everything in moderation. Including moderation.” This is an invitation to look at your overall diet and ask yourself how you’re doing. Are you eating enough fruits and vegetables? Protein? Fibre? Are you drinking enough water? Too much sugar? Our bodies send us strong signals when we are not eating properly. You may have irregular bowel movements or feel sluggish. You might also notice that your energy levels throughout the day are imbalanced. Focus on putting foods in your body that nourish you and slow down meal times when you can. Tuning in to how what you’re eating is making you feel can make a big difference.

Get Moving | Are you getting enough exercise? You don’t have to hit the gym every day to reap the benefits of exercise. Park further away from your destination or walk to the next bus stop if you have time. Get coffee to go and wander through a park instead of sitting down. Exercise keeps your muscles working properly and does wonders for your mental state. Do yoga in your chair! 

Get Your ZZZs | You’ve heard it before but we’ll say it again! Getting adequate sleep is one of the best and easiest (or hardest) ways to be kind to your body. Need some tips? Take a look at these posts. 

Speak Kindly | Sometimes I marvel at all the amazing things our bodies can and have done. If you’re unhappy with the way you look or you’re frustrated with your body’s limitations due to injury or illness, it can be easy to say not-so-kind things to yourself. Take some time to practice gratitude, and think or write about all the things your body does and has done for you. It might change the way you look at yourself in the mirror.

 

Cassandra Van Dyck

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.

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.

5 Minutes for Self-Care

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. 

 

How to Let Go

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“Some of us think that holding on is what makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.” – Herman Hesse

What does it mean to let go?

Depending on where you’re at in your caregiving journey, the idea might seem appealing, terrifying, or impossible.

If you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, letting go can look like reaching a place where you’re able to focus more on your own life and less on the life you once led as a caregiver. If you’re new to your caregiving role, letting go might mean relinquishing some control over how you wish things could be, and accepting that they are the way they are.

Letting go evokes feelings of acceptance and freedom. It’s a release of pain, fear, anger, or stress. It brings your mind out of the past or future and in to the present. It allows others to support you because you are letting go of the need to control your situation.

How do you let go? Here are a few tips:

Take inventory. | If you know that you need to let go, then you know you are holding on to something that isn’t serving you. Take some time to reflect on how you’re doing and what is in the way of feeling you better. Try not to rush yourself. Becoming a caregiver or losing a loved one is a journey, and deciding to let go of emotions is not an easy decision.

Get support. | Join a network group, talk to a friend or family member, reach out to a professional counsellor or therapist. We were never meant to do it all alone, and it is so much easier to work through difficult emotions when you have support.

Every day, do one thing that lights you up. | Practicing self-care and doing one thing every day that makes you happy can remind your body and mind that there are feelings other than the heavy ones that you want to let go of. Dance in your living room, visit your local swimming pool, or sing along to your favourite song. Grab on to the small pleasures in life that bring you joy.

 

Cassandra Van Dyck

 

The Lazy Woman’s (and Man’s) Guide to Yoga: An Interview with Taylore Daniel

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Hi Taylore! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. We see your book, “The Lazy Woman’s Guide to Yoga”, as a wonderful resource for caregivers. Caregivers often struggle to find time for self-care. Your pose suggestions can be done anywhere, anytime. Not only does yoga help ease sore muscles, it can help caregivers feel better emotionally so they can support their loved ones and take care of themselves.

Can you tell us about what inspired you to write the book “The Lazy Woman’s Guide to Yoga?”

Well, there’s a lot of people who’d like to do yoga, but at the same time, yoga can feel intimidating and inconvenient. It usually involves a one-hour class outside the home. It involves floorwork, a change of clothes, a teacher, and poses that might feel strange or risky. So what inspired me to write this book was the desire to help people practice yoga in an easy, effortless way that fits their schedule, can be done sitting on a chair at home or out and about doing errands… no floorwork, special attire or teacher required.

How has yoga changed your life?

Yoga has been a part of my life since I was a child, when I took my mom’s Hatha Yoga book off the shelf and began going through it page by page, copying the poses. Throughout my life, there’s been times I’ve practiced yoga regularly. And other times, not. When it’s a regular part of my life, I feel strong, my joints are supple, I feel energetic and grounded. When I fail to practice, I begin to feel creaky, puffy and a little sluggish. There’s a direct relationship between yoga and quality of life, and the older I get the more direct this relationship becomes. 

Could you recommend a pose that helps give people energy first thing in the morning?

A fabulous energizing move in the morning is what I call “flying.” Simply put, raise and lower your arms at your sides, as if you were a bird. Moving our arms above our head pumps blood and oxygen to our brain, increasing alertness and clarity. As well, it loosens up and revitalizes the arms, shoulders and back, and gets the spinal fluid flowing through our body and lubricating our joints. Not to mention, this flowing move feels absolutely wonderful. (And it can even be done while you’re watching television or reading email.)

How about one for winding down in the evening?

A great way to wind down in the evening is with the breath. When we exhale longer than we inhale, our entire nervous system begins to calm. Inhaling slowly to a count of 2, and exhaling to a count of 4, you will almost instantly sense your shoulders relaxing, the muscles of your jaw and forehead becoming softer, your mind quieting. Feel the breath reach right down into the belly and your whole body will begin to relax.

I love the chapter in your book on tapping! It’s not something I’ve heard about often when reading about yoga. What would you say to someone who’s hesitant about trying it?

Using our fingertips, the palm of our hand, or a loose fist to gently and softly tap our limbs, our backs, our stomach or any other part of our body is a safe and effective practice that releases physical tension and knots. Try it right now, and see how it feels. It’s effortless and can be done anywhere, whether it’s behind the wheel of your car or waiting in a line up. Tapping also brings fresh oxygen and blood to the skin, so has the effect of giving us a lift.

An inevitable part of the caregiving journey is grief. Are there any yoga or tapping exercises that are especially good for coping with loss or changes of a loved one? 

As well as releasing physical tensions and knots, tapping relieves emotional stresses like grief, loss and anxiety. One effective tapping exercise is to, first of all, identify where the feeling of grief is located in your body. Is it your throat? Chest? Stomach? Once you’ve located where in your body the feeling sits, softly tap that spot with the pads of your fingers. You’ll find this simple exercise emotionally soothing, calming and nurturing.

Finally, what would you say to someone who tells you, “Yoga is not for me.”

When someone says, “Yoga isn’t for me,” I get it. There can be a sense of insurmountable obstacles with any new practice, including yoga. “Where will I find the time?” “What if I can’t sit on the floor in lotus position?” “What if I don’t live near a yoga studio?”

The main reason I wrote “The Lazy Woman’s (and Man’s) Guide to Yoga” is to make yoga so effortless and convenient that anyone can practice it, whether there’s time issues, mobility issues, or motivation issues. The key is to simply begin where you’re at, taking a moment here and there, seated comfortably or standing, at home or in the midst of running errands. The benefits from even a few seconds of yoga throughout your day are immeasurable.

Do you have anything else to add?

Thanks so much Cassandra for your great questions! They were thoughtful and practical, and I really appreciate you taking the time to ask.

Thank you so much, Taylore!

 

Taylore Daniel is a yoga teacher and personal trainer. “The Lazy Woman’s Guide to Yoga” and “The Lazy Man’s Guide to Yoga” are at Amazon.ca/com, Banyen Books, and other Vancouver bookshops. www.tayloredaniel.com

The Lazy Woman’s Guide to Yoga” and “The Lazy Man’s Guide to Yoga” is at Amazon.ca/com, Banyen Books, and other local Vancouver bookshops. Visit Taylore at www.tayloredaniel.com

 

 

How to Practice Self-Care in 5 Minutes

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You might be feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders today. You’re trying to run more errands than you have time for and you just remembered you forgot that important thing you were supposed to do last week. Maybe you’ve been swallowing some tough emotions and haven’t been able to connect with that person in your life who’s a wonderful listener. Practicing self-care might be the last thing on your mind.

Do you have 5 minutes to spare? Just 5.

Click here for a list of 98 ways to practice self-care in 5 minutes or less, or try any of the following suggestions. How did you feel after?

STRETCH | Stand up and raise your arms slowly over your head. Roll your head from side to side. Interested in yoga but not sure you have time? Read The Lazy Woman’s Guide to Yoga to learn how to practice yoga anywhere, anytime!

MEDITATE | Try this 5 minute guided meditation.

DANCE | Put on a song you love and let loose!

CALL A FRIEND | Sometimes when we’re having a tough day, what we need most is to connect. Pick up your phone and call someone who always makes you smile. If you can’t get a hold of them, leave a message and tell them you’d love to talk soon.

How do you practice self-care in 5 minutes or less? We’d love to hear from you in our comments!

Cassandra Van Dyck

A Loving Kindness Guided Meditation

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How was your holiday weekend? You might be feeling tired today, or perhaps a little stressed. Holidays and dinners can be fun and relaxing, but they can also feel stressful and involve a lot of work! Today is a great day for a little self-care. 

Have you tried loving kindness meditation?

Read all about it here. 

Set aside 20 minutes for yourself today. Create a space in your home that you find calming and peaceful. Make a cup of tea, or if you have some extra time, run a hot bath. Once you’re comfortable, take a comfortable seat, and try this guided meditation.

 

Cassandra Van Dyck

3 Tiny Indulgences

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Practicing self-care does not, and should not, cost money. 

This is important to remember, to share, and to practice. Although many practitioners offer valuable services, self-care is often marketed to the public by companies and individuals to make money. Self-care can and should be practiced by all caregivers so that you are giving yourself the same care and attention that you give to your loved ones. For some tips on practising self-care, click here. 

Every now and then, however, it can be nice to spend a small amount of money and indulge in tiny indulgences that makes you smile and relax.

Here are three ideas:

FOOT OR CHAIR MASSAGE | If you would like to relax, search your neighbourhood for practitioners that offer foot reflexology or chair massage. The cost of these services tends to be less, and deals can often be found on groupon.

PASTRY AND A WARM DRINK | There are so many cafes on the North Shore, and for under $5, you should be able to purchase a delicious treat and drink. If you’re worried about the price, opt for drip coffee or a cup of tea. Carve out an hour to sit at the coffee shop and read a book or a newspaper, write in a journal, or do nothing but enjoy your treat.

SAUNA OR HOT TUB |Drop-in to a local rec centre and spend some time in the sauna or hot tub. It should cost no more than $6 to spend a couple of hours relaxing and rejuvenating.

What sorts of tiny indulgences do you splurge on? We’d love to hear from you in our comments!

 

Cassandra Van Dyck