Thursday, March 3, 2011

Say a Little Prayer

Sometimes it's all too much. Too many tasks. Too much caring. Too many options or too few. We need to pump up the faith that we'll find the right path. Say a prayer.

Quick, heartfelt. Arrow prayers, one friend calls them. Straight shot to the Divine, to the Spirit, to God. My mother's favorite? "Lord, give me strength!" Prayed aloud with all her frustration and need behind it, this was (and is) a pretty powerful prayer.

Prayer on a long breath. One of my favorites? From the Psalms--"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." And another--"Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your people and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be re-created, and you shall renew the face of the earth." Takes a little longer. Makes you focus on what you're saying. Takes you away from the current challenge. Try the Lord's Prayer or the Prayer of St. Francis. Any prayer that you've memorized and on which you can really focus.

Prayer on the Beads. I grew up in the Catholic tradition and found that repetitive prayer on the Rosary was just the thing to slow down the monkey mind and give me a sense of connection with the Holy Spirit. As I've moved in my spiritual journey to other expressions of Christianity, I've explored other prayer bead traditions--Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Bahá'í Faith--and finally settled on the Anglican beads. The Anglican Rosary holds deep symbolism in its very structure, but has no one set of prayers associated with it.
The basic approach is to pray an opening prayer of faith on the cross and another prayer to settle into the Spirit on the Invitatory. Choose one prayer to repeat at each Cruciform bead and one prayer (or seven phrases) to say at each Week bead. To complete the prayers takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Enough time for a pause. Enough time to quiet monkey mind. Enough time to get a grip and return to caring. Renewed.

Say a little prayer...because you're worth it.

Blessings on your caregving today!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Clean Out a Drawer

"Clean out" anything does not sound like a mini-vacation, does it? But I'm finding a great deal of pleasure in cleaning out a chest of drawers. My father-in-law has just moved to a skilled nursing residence near us, and we've decided to add this chest to his furniture. So everything now stored in that chest has to find a new home, whether that's in another part of our house, or to charity, or to the trash. Every day, I take 10 or 15 minutes to make some progress--unload a drawer, go through the contents, confirm with my husband what we can pitch.

So far I have the chest emptied, and the contents waiting for new homes are stacked all over the downstairs. But it feels good. Sorting through pieces of my life to which I've clung but which are no longer important in my current life's rhythm. Knowing that I'll be re-gifting and sharing with others who will get more use and more enjoyment out of the extra linens, candles and craft items from that chest. Getting away from the computer, moving about, setting my mind in a different direction.

In a caregiver's busy schedule, the traditional "spring cleaning" which overturned the entire household in one fell swoop is not possible. But 10 minutes to clean out a drawer? Very possible...and very cleansing on many levels. Pick a drawer or part of a closet or a table surface or a corner of the garage. Clean out a little; get big benefits.

Blessings on your caregiving today!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Open Up a Talking Card

I hope that you all have been able to add a special activity into your routine. The activity that will refresh your spirit for caregiving. I can report that it's Friday, the day for contra dancing, but I'm not going dancing because...I got a better offer! A good friend from out-of-state is visiting, so tomorrow, we'll go touring, have a sleep-over, and talk and talk. A weekend getaway close to home.

Even if you've got your activity in place, remember to take those mini-vacations on the days when your activity is not planned.

Here's another idea. Ask someone close to you to buy you a talking greeting card. Or go out and buy one for yourself. Check them all out. You can have a mini-vacation just listening to all the talking cards in the rack. For my birthday, my husband bought me one with Ms. M&M Green on the cover. She's wearing those knee-high white boots and a sassy smile. When I open the card, she reminds how being so good-looking can be "such a burden." Sigh! Makes me laugh every time. I've got it on my desk, and when I need a lift, I open that card.

Get a card, get a laugh.

Blessings on your caregiving today!

Friday, February 11, 2011

"Time for Ourselves" Plan - Part The Last

Have you done it? Have you arranged for care for your dependents while you take some time for yourself? For those of you whose elders are living in their own home or in a residence with assistance, Step 4 is easy. My father-in-law is living in a skilled nursing residence, so I know he's safe and cared for. But Step 4 may be the hardest for those of you who share your home with your elder. Have you hesitated in your plan thinking that it's just too much effort or that you really don't want anyone else caring or that it's been harder to get things in place than you considered?

It's all right. Continue to work through the Plan steps. Keep in front of you the vision of taking that time for yourself doing something you really enjoy. Now is when that first choice of activity you made is tested. I know I've wanted to give up or not follow through. But I love to dance! And I feel SO-o-o good after an evening of contra dancing, that I know dancing will be a lift to my spirits and will give me more energy to keep going during the week. Don't give up.

If you've been able to make those arrangements, then we're at Part The Last.

Step 5. Do the Activity.

Yeah! We get to do our activity. Everything is in place. Now we can enjoy the fruits of all our planning. In my plan, contra dancing is a Friday night activity. So I'll give you an update next week.

Blessings on your caregiving today!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"Time for Ourselves" Plan - Part 4

Last week our goal was to plan to put our Time for Ourselves activity into our routine. I'm working to put contra dancing into my schedule. I now know that the dancing society meets every Friday evening and the best time to go will be when my husband is on the Friday work schedule. Those are the days when I'll have use of our one car. So that will be twice or three times a month. I'd like to go every week and that may happen, but right now I'm not going to make it difficult. I'm going to make this first enhancement to my schedule as easy and stress-free as possible. I want to set myself up for success with no chance for excuses. I can definitely have transportation a couple times a month; I'll start there. I still need to get in touch with a few more friends who'd like to join me in this, and together we may arrange to carpool. All to the good.

I also found out that there is a small fee for each dance attended. It's something I can afford, but I'll need to budget it in. With annual tax time looming, I'm in the process of reviewing finances, so this week, I'll make sure this item is in the budget.

So now I have a set plan for attending and I'm moving on. How did your planning go? I hope you've been able to look at your schedule and block out time for this very important Time for Yourself. When you've done that...

Step 4: Arrange for your dependent's (children, elder's) care

This week, you will put into place the final "arrangement" piece of the Plan. If you need to arrange for daycare or evening care for your elder or your children, this is the week to do that. For your elder, take into consideration what companionship and services will be best for the current situation. You can consider these possibilities:
  • Ask a friend, neighbor, or family member to sit with your elder
  • Does your church have a ministry for seniors or volunteers who make home visits? Check with your minister or priest if you don't know.
  • Check out the local Senior Center to see if they have activities that would interest your elder at the time you'd like to take for yourself.
  • Call your local Area Agency on Aging or County Department of Aging or Social Services and ask for local elder daycare programs or volunteer organizations that provide in-home visits.
  • Check online or paper telephone yellow pages for "Senior and Aging Organizations" to find companies who can provide in-home care on a short-term basis.
  • Assisted Living communities sometimes offer respite care. Your elder could stay for a few hours, overnight, or even for a full week. This service is not always promoted front and center, so you might need to make a few phone calls to verify if the residence provides respite care.

If you get this piece in place, you'll be ready to start your activity. I know you can do it.

Blessings on your caregiving!

Friday, January 28, 2011

"Time For Ourselves" Plan - Part 3

How did you do this week? Did you gather what you needed for the activity you've chosen?

I chose contra dancing and I made sure I had the right shoes and dancing clothes, I spoke to one of my friends, but do need to contact another. I know when and where the dancers meet. I'm ready to move on.

If you need to gather more materials or do a bit more research on the activity you've chosen, take another few days to finish, then move to...

Step 3: Plan to insert this activity into your week.

Now we begin to think about the time for our activity. First, decide how much time you'd like to spend on this activity. If this is a class you've chosen, then you already may know days and times. If not a scheduled activity, then you can create your own schedule. Two hours on Wednesday evening; 1 hour on Saturday morning. The hour when Dad has a nap which is different each day. What might fit your current rhythm?

Second, think about how those hours you spend on your activity will shift other things in your week. There are three ways to find time for a new activity, or more accurately, to make a "time exchange".
  1. Make no changes to the list of things you're currently doing. Get up earlier or stay up later to compensate for the time you'll spend doing the new activity. Exchange awake time for sleep time.
  2. Decide that something else will not get done. Exchange one task time for another.
  3. Ask someone else to do something on that current list so you can spend that time on your activity. Exchange someone else's time for yours.

Consider the pros and cons of each option carefully, taking into account that overall, the goal is to add some relaxation in your life, not sleep-deprivation or excessive anxiety. Also remember that your goal includes adding this activity on a regular basis so that it will become routine.

Already sounds hard, feels hard to me. I'm feeling a little tightness inside thinking about this. At the same time I really want to dance. So I'm going to take a breath and figure out how contra dancing will fit.

I know you can do the same. Check in next week for the progress report.

Blessings on your caregiving!

Friday, January 21, 2011

"Time For Ourselves" Plan - Part 2

Last week I got all excited about encouraging us to make time for ourselves. I bet you could tell that I've got a lot of passion for the subject of Choices. Why? Because when I finally got the concept, it was a major revelation. There are a lot of things that we do on an unconscious level for which we don't have a choice (breathing, for one; beating heart, for another) and many decisions we make on an instinctual level based on our experience, culture, education, upbringing, preferences, and code of honor or duty. We act without thinking, but we've made the decision to act without thinking. Now when I find myself saying, "I just can't do anything else!" or "Oh, I couldn't do that", I know that it's time to examine my motivation, my reasons for acting in a certain way. Then I can make a Choice, Consciously. I may still choose to act the same way, I may choose to continue to act without thinking becasue it makes the most sense. But I'm very aware of why. It's quite empowering.

Enough soap box.

I promised I would share what I chose for my time-for-me activity. Here it is...Contra Dancing!

Contra dancing is the dancing that you see in movies based on Jane Austin when everyone gushes about going to a ball or to the assembly. You see two parallel lines of dancers who move around the lines in patterns called "figures".

I was introduced to contra dancing years ago in Michigan and went to quite a few dances. When I moved to North Carolina, I found a group that sponsors the dancing, but let the idea fade into the background.

Contra dancing has everything that we talked about last week for the activity. The group holds a dance every week. I adore dancing and the moves are easy to pick up. I love music, and I don't need a partner. Contra dancing energizes me, lifts me up and is just challenging enough that I have to clear my mind of my worries and focus on the figures. And I get some exercise. Good all around.

I've made that first choice. Did you make yours? If you need another week to decide, take the time, and when you're ready...

We're on to Step 2 of the plan: Prepare for the activity.

This week, gather what you'll need for the activity. Do you need a space cleared for your activity? Do you need equipment or supplies? Do you need to gather information or read up on a skill? Do you need particular clothing? You may need to purchase something to be ready, but it may be that you don't need to purchase anything, because you already own what you need. If so, this week you want to gather it all together, brush it off, clean it, whatever helps you prepare for the activity.

For my activity, I have to make sure that I have proper shoes for a couple of hours of strenuous dancing, comfortable clothing, and directions to the dance. I'm thinking of asking some friends to join me, so I need to contact them. So I have a bit of prep to fit in this week.

You still don't need to think about finding the time. Think instead about getting prepared and about how much pleasure you'll get from your activity.

I'll let you know how I'm doing next week. Go out and prepare!

Blessings on your caregiving...and finding time for you.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The "Time for Ourselves" Plan

I don't have the time!
I say this on a regular basis. I don't have time for a mini-vacation. I just can't get away for a few hours. Take time for me? Impossible. I sure could use a few more hours in the day.

And what would you do with those few more hours? Fill them up with tasks and activities for someone else, but not for you?

This week, I received an e-mail from Shelly Webb, the founder of The Intentional Caregiver. She's a nurse and caregiver, and she noted in her message that caregivers with whom she interacts insist that they don't have time for themselves.

Well, here's a news flash. We only get so many hours in the day. That's not going to change. Another news flash, we caregivers make CHOICES on how we'll spend our time, and--drum roll, please--we CHOOSE to put everyone else's priorities before our own well-being and health. We ALLOW requests and demands around us--from job, church, family, friends, the community--to become all important and discount our own needs. We CREATE false importance by judging everything as necessary RIGHT NOW.

Do you feel the pull of RIGHT NOW?

Part of carving out some time for yourself begins with looking critically at your situation. Does everyone you're serving (spouse, kids, parents, family and you) have what they need for survival? Food, clothing, a safe place to live, medical care? If yes, then take a breath. RIGHT NOW is under control. The rest of the giving on your list is gravy, a blessing, icing on the cake. In that "gravy time" is time for you.

Let's you and I together get that time for ourselves. There are only five steps involved:
1) Choose what you want to do for yourself.
2) Prepare for this activity.
3) Plan to insert this activity into your week.
4) Arrange for your dependents'(children, elders') care.
5) Do the activity.

Over the next four weeks, you and I are going to do one step at a time and at the end of four weeks we will be ready with time for ourselves. You may need to move faster or slower, but follow the steps in this order and you'll have a fun, relaxing activity ready to go.

So first, this week, choose what you want to do for yourself.

Don't skimp. Make this choice something that pulls at your spirit, brings you to life, peels the stress away, really lifts you up. Think of something that you will want to do at least once a week for at least 30 minutes. Maybe it's quiet time, going to a movie, a long bubble bath, shooting hoops, taking up painting, building a bird house, playing with your kids, date night with your spouse. It's got to be something that gives you a wonderful feeling and de-stresses you or you won't feel compelled to put it in your routine.

For now, I'm not asking you to consider anything about where the time is going to come from. I am asking you to consider what brings you true pleasure in life and choose at least one activity based on that.

I've already got some things in mind. Do you? I'll share what I've decided next week.

Blessings on your caregiving!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I Need a Drink!

Have you heard this or said this with enough exasperation to know that the day has been a tough one? Most of the time, this phrase refers to something with an alcoholic kick. We caregivers know that, except for an occassional glass of wine or a beer, drinking alcohol on a regular basis is not a way to care for ourselves.

No, I'm talking about taking a breather with a non-alcoholic beverage. Could be a cup of coffee, chocolate or tea. Could be a tall glass of lemonade or water with a slice of orange. Whatever beverage you prefer given the weather and your mood.

First, choose your time. I suggest a 15 minute break, so you want some quiet for that 15 minutes. Turn off your phone(s), TV, radio. The kids are at school, Mom's taking a nap, most of the office is in a meeting, you choose.

Then proceed in 3 steps: Set a place; Prepare the drink; Savor.

Set a Place
Gather a nice placemat, your favorite mug or glass (even the good china), any tableware you might need, a napkin (cloth is good, but a printed paper one would work, too). Choose a spot to sit with a nice view and set a place. This is for you, so make it special.

Prepare the Drink
Start the coffee, heat water, get ice out of the freezer, slice a lemon, whatever is needed to get that drink ready. Take your time. Be aware of your actions through each step of the preparation process. Focus on the process, take a breath.

You may get the coffee on and then set your place while it's brewing. You make the choice. Don't rush. You're not trying to get done fast; you're creating a mini-break.

At the place you've set, serve yourself your drink, then sit and savor. Don't read the paper. Don't check your e-mail or texts. Smell the aroma of the hot chocolate. Place that cool glass of ice water against your cheek. Take a sip. Feel the liquid on your tongue and sliding down your throat. If it's too hot, blow on it. If it's too cold, wrap your hands around the glass. Take your time.

Let your thoughts wander, but always come back to your drink. The beverage you prepared for yourself. Because you deserve this brief interlude. Take a breath between sips. Finish all of it. Take a deep breath. Steadily, put everything away, clean up as much as you need to. Take another breath.

Ah-h-h-h. Wasn't that great? Time to move on with your day.

Blessings on your caregiving!