Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What's a Mini-Vacation?

A Mini-Vacation is a brief count of moments to stop and smell the roses--literally or figuratively.

In the midst of caring, while facing the challenges of parenting, employment, eldercare, and living, we often become so enveloped in the “have to’s” and the “musts” that we forget to breathe. We don’t look up and notice that the sky is clear blue or that our children have just made a marvelous discovery or that the snow sparkles like glitter or that our spouse is looking particularly good that day.

Caring for elderly parents is not a sprint, but a marathon, and as a caregiver, you need to find the right caring pace that will allow you to thrive during the journey over weeks, months and perhaps years.

The most powerful technique I learned and used during my caregiving experience was one I learned from one of my spiritual teachers, the late Sister José Hobday, an American Indian nun who lived in New Mexico. She taught that the quality of experience we foster in our lives will ultimately give us more joy and peace than the quantity of tasks or things we do. She recommended a simple daily practice:
Take 20 mini-vacations a day.
Throughout the day, take regular micro-breaks in your routine to focus on something pleasant. All you need is a few seconds or a few minutes and your focused attention. When you shift your attention from your current concerns to something you truly enjoy, you briefly release your mind, body and spirit from stress and clear them to continue with renewed energy.

In her teachings, Sister Hobday encourages 20 of these breaks a day. That averages out to about two every waking hour. What does this mean? It means that as we look toward the future in our caregiving role, we don't have to see endless stress and tasks before us. We learn to divide our tasks for others into short bursts of activity interwoven with time for ourselves.

Mini-vacations may take a small amount of planning, especially if you wish to have pictures or music readily available. But for the most part, just look up, notice the world around you, move around in it a little. There are endless opportunities for a break in your routine.

Twice a week in this blog, we'll be sharing ideas for mini-vacations and reminding each other to take a break, take a breath, and care for ourselves.

Blessings on your caregiving day!

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