A Simple Meditation for A Good Night’s Rest

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We’ve talked a lot on the blog about the importance of a good night’s rest. Sleeping well can help give you resilience and energy for your caregiving journey. Getting a good night’s rest does not always come easily, so it’s helpful to have some tricks in your toolbox if you’re struggling.

Practicing meditation can help relax your body and mind so you can drift off in to dreamland with ease. After you’re comfortable in bed, put on some headphones and try this guided meditation.

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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

 

Respite is essential for your health

My definition of respite: Time away from regular caregiving duties that gives you a much deserved break, and helps you regain strength.

 

It is normal for a caregiver to have LOTS on their mind. Lists of phone calls they need to make; upcoming appointments for a loved one; worries about house maintenance or finances; the busyness of preparing meals and keeping the house organized.
All of this can be stressful and tiring, even when you are supporting a parent or spouse out of a sincere desire to be there for them … even when you truly love this person and feel positive about your ability to manage all that needs to be done.

Whether your care partner lives with you or elsewhere, it’s essential that you sometimes get a break. For your mental well-being and peace of mind, it is helpful to have your loved one looked after by professional care staff for a few days every so often.
Booking them into overnight respite allows you to focus on other parts of your life, such as following your own career dreams, spending time with friends, going to doctor’s appointments and tending to your own health, or simply having a bit of time to unwind and not respond to someone else’s needs.

 

“To be self-nurturing is to have the courage to pay attention to your needs”
-Alan Wolfelt

 

4 positive effects of accessing respite:
Permission.
You are giving yourself permission to be off-duty for a couple days. This is a healthy choice to make. Your system will have a chance to slow down and relax a little bit, without being on high alert towards the other person’s care needs. You are not selfish for needing some time away- you are choosing to act in a loving way towards yourself.

What do I need permission to do right now?

Re-discovery.
This is an opportunity for you to re-connect with activities you enjoy doing. You may have become too tired or stretched for time, and lost track of what makes you feel energized and happy. Take this chance to remember who YOU are, without the caretaking role.
What makes you smile?  Think about an activity you can you re-introduce into your life a couple times per week, even for 10 minutes.

Simplicity.
While you may have many sweet, meaningful or lighthearted moments with your spouse or parent during a usual week, you likely have some frustrating or exhausting ones as well. When you book the time off, you regain simplicity in daily routines, living your days according to what you want or need to be doing- if even for a short while.
I
 invite you to notice whether your schedule is feeling too hectic. Think of 1 task you can delegate that will make your life less strenuous.

Change of scene.
Even though your family member might not be thrilled to try respite out, they’re likely to have lots of great experiences. They will probably make some connections with staff or residents of the facility. This can really boost one’s self-esteem and enliven the spirits. There will be social events on the go, such as afternoon tea or happy hour. Groups of residents will gather to talk about current events, or listen to live music that gets their feet tapping. A few days around other people can be a marvelous antidote to isolation and loneliness.
For details on overnight respite options in North and West Vancouver, call or stop by our office at Capilano Mall, suite 201. We have brochures on local care facilities (both public and private options), recreation programs, and meal delivery services. Our staff and volunteers are happy to chat it through, and seeing a friendly face doesn’t hurt either!    www.nscr.bc.ca

Some people feel guilty when they book their family member into overnight respite. This emotion is one that can be lessened or worked through with the support of good friends, a therapist, or a bit of self-inspired reading.
Here are a few books and articles to get you started:

Escaping Toxic Guilt: Five Proven Steps to Free Yourself from Guilt for Good! -Susan Carrell

Emotional Blackmail: When the People in your life use fear, obligation, and guilt to manipulate you.   -Susan Forward

Graduating from guilt: Six steps to overcome guilt and reclaim your life.
-Holly Michelle Eckert.

Toxic Guilt, Healthy Guilt By Margaret Paul, Ph.D. http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/MargaretPaul13.html

 

Enjoy the break! In my view, you completely deserve it.
-Karyn

 

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

 

 

Mental Health First Aid Course

What follows is a review of a course I took from CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association) this month.

Mental Health First Aid is described as : “providing comfort and assistance to a person experiencing a mental health issue or crisis until the person gets professional help or the crisis is resolved.”

There is a great need for this as: “In Canada one person in five will experience some problem with their mental health in the course of a year and… one person in three  will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime.”

A  Mental Health Commission of Canada study estimates mental health problems cost the economy $50 billion in the cost of direct services and lost productivity in 2011.

Added to this is the fact that mental illness most likely strikes people during their most productive years (25 yrs to 44 yrs).

The course, which takes two full days, covers:

  1. Substance-related disorders
  2. Mood-related disorders
  3. Anxiety and trauma-related disorders
  4. Psychotic disorders

And what of the future of mental health?

By 2020, WHO (World Health Organization) anticipates that depression will be the leading cause of disability for all ages and sexes in developed countries.

As there are 8.1 million caregivers in Canada (1 in 4 Canadians), the stress they endure is likely to have a major impact on mental health, so courses like these are essential.

All the more reason to practice good self-care.  Stay tuned for blog posts on resilience, and also some very cool mental health websites coming out of Australia.

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

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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

7 Tips for dealing with change

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

3 Non-Traditional Energy Drinks

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When you’re tired and having trouble getting through your day, you might be tempted to reach for a big cup of coffee, or, if you’re really fading, an store-bought energy drink. You know the ones – they’re fizzy and taste sort of like pop, but have a medicinal undertone. These drinks are highly caffeinated and often contain loads of sugar and other ingredients that might not be the best for your health. They give you the boost of energy you’re looking for, but you could end up feeling worse in the long run. Energy drinks have been known to cause headaches, anxiety, and to disturb sleep.

With all that’s on a caregiver’s plate, it’s common for fatigue to creep in. So, what should you reach for when you’re feeling a dip in energy but still need to get some things done? Here are 3 suggestions.

WATER | Sometimes when you’re tired, you’re really just thirsty. Ask yourself how much water you’ve had today. Fill up and drink a glass or two, then reevaluate your energy levels. Not a fan of water? Add lemons, cucumber, or berries for a delicious infusion!

SMOOTHIE | If you’re feeling tired and craving a boost, your body could be telling you that you need some fuel. A smoothie packed with nutritious ingredients is a great way to get some nutrients and give your body some lasting energy. Avoid adding too much sugar if you want to prevent a crash. I love this recipe by Carley Mendes.

MATCHA | If you’re an avid coffee drinker but you’re not crazy about how you feel after drinking a late afternoon cup, consider matcha. Matcha still contains caffeine, but less than coffee. It can be heated and whisked in to water or milk and mixed with sweetener for a delicious take on a latte. Click here for a recipe.

What do you do when you’re tired and need some energy? We’d love to hear from you in our comments!

Cassandra Van Dyck

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