Posts tagged ‘self-kindness’

June 18, 2019

Five Ways to Cope When Life Feels Like it’s Always About Someone Else

Here are five ways to cope when life feels like it’s always about someone else. If you are an attentive, involved caregiver you know how difficult it can be to prioritize yourself. There’s often no time and energy remaining once you’ve taken care of feeding, bathing, dressing, medications, recreation, transportation and cleaning required to provide for an ill or disabled relative. On top of that, you may be responsible for paying bills and taking care of other children. You may also have a job.

I feel overwhelmed just typing that list. And I feel tired this morning in spite of 9 hours of sleep. Yesterday, I kept my medically fragile granddaughter who had been throwing up everything, including meds, for two days. It is a draining experience. And that’s the reason I offered to keep her. Her parents and brother needed a break!
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For those of you who have never been a caregiver, it’s easy to assume that being organized, prepared, and energetic will be sufficient to handle the job without undue strain. It helps. Having sufficient financial resources along with family and social support lessen the impact. But until you’ve done the job, there’s no way to understand the toll it can take.

Data say a large majority of caregivers report adverse effects to daily routines of sleep, eating, and exercise. They also report a significant negative impact on social and recreational life. A majority also report often neglecting their own health during caregiving. Even if you view caregiving as rewarding, this eventually affects your quality of life.

I recently ran into a nurse who works in the hospital unit my granddaughter frequents. She told me how much she LOVES my family. She’s so impressed that my son & daughter-in-law still have jobs and lives. She said that most parents with similar children quit their jobs.

Of course that’s an anecdotal assessment, but it’s telling. At a certain level, caregiving can require you to limit your hours, change the level of job you hold, or stop working altogether. That not only affects income, it can lessen your social connections.

Nurture Supportive Friendships

When I look back at the years I owned my previous business, I see lots of inclusion in birthday drinks, holiday parties, family weddings, and funeral visitations. I also see how much effort I put into maintaining the connections that led to that inclusion. Once I had less time to “market” myself, many of those invitations ceased.

The following year when circumstances demanded I begin caregiving, an additional level of friends fell away. Now, I have a core group of friends who understand that I must often say no. They don’t take it personally. They endure my initial nonstop talking the days I haven’t spoken to anyone besides children in weeks. They are patient when nothing seems funny to me.

I am grateful for these friends. I’ve known most of them for more than 15 years. Some I’ve known for 30. If I had not already had an established set of friends, it would have taken a great deal of deliberate effort to cultivate them once caregiving began.

Allow Yourself to Receive

One of the best ways to cope when all of the focus in your household is on someone else, is to allow yourself to receive. Of course, that requires someone to give. It is often friends who are willing to lend a hand with cooking, shopping, or other errand running. Don’t hesitate to ask or to say yes when they offer.

If offers of help aren’t sincere, you’ll learn that quickly. You’ll also learn that many are. I recently had a friend research the availability of Quick Dams online while I wet vacuumed water from my flooding office building. That was one less task I had to do that night.

Hire a Service

When friends run shorter than finances, a service can help with care. After my mother suffered a stroke and no longer met the criteria for rehab, my stepfather took her home. He had been very impatient with the staff at rehab and frequently let them (and us) know that believed he could do a better job of caring for her, keeping her bed clean, and getting her to eat than they had.

My sister and I arrived at the end of her first week home. One look and it was clear that NewDaddy could not handle another day without assistance. He had grossly underestimated the care required to deal with her impairment.My sister and I lived hours away, so I hired a service that would do household chores, dispense meds, and eventually provide hospice care.

The emotional drain of caregiving can be exhausting. The roller coaster of hospitalization, code blue, ventilator, return to baseline, stable period, minor illness, rapid decline, and hospitalization in the medically fragile is traumatic for both patient and family. It becomes difficult to relax and renew between medical events because the natural reflex is to remain braced for the next escalation. Often the stable period does not last long enough to process through the most recent past trauma making the effects cumulative.
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Make Time for Grieving

With dementia, stroke, traumatic brain injury, down syndrome or cerebral palsy comes a sense of loss that must be grieved. Grief requires stillness which requires time away from tasks including those of self-care like cooking. Unfortunately, church groups, civic clubs, book clubs, and informal groups of friends who happily provide meals and household support when someone dies do not recognize the prolonged grief of slow decline with the same kind of assistance.

Healthy caregivers may set good boundaries, make sure to add an hour of sleep or a nap, eat well, and continue to work out and still end up hitting the wall. It happened to me in 2018 and it came as a shock. I have always been able to work long and hard and still find the energy to play. I had no idea how much energy it takes process grief and trauma.

When you begin to notice life is never about you, it may feel selfish to sleep an additional two hours per night. It can also make you feel old, unfun, and unattractive. But catching up may not be a matter of sleeping-in one weekend. It can take months of added sleep to get ahead when you’re a caregiver.

Change What You Can

I now begin to say no much sooner–before I get too tired. I pay more attention to subtle body signals. And I work less. Since I am my own boss, my work schedule is something I can change.

While maintaining connections is important, I no longer choose to give my time to people who make things more difficult. I feel much less distress over the relationship shifts this causes than I do accommodating friends and relatives who regularly create interactions that are convoluted, vague, chaotic, argumentative, unnecessarily complicated, manipulative, inconsiderate or filled with turmoil. Any offer of “help” from these parties is not helpful and therefore declined. Ditto for those who have proven repeatedly unreliable.

Finding the time, resources, and energy to plan an actual vacation has been difficult the past couple of years. I’ve made plenty of trips, but they haven’t exactly included recreation and relaxation. I can reframe how I view days off and vacations and I can certainly give up feeling bad about relaxing when my to-do list remains long.

The Sum Total is Self-Kindness

Big change begins with small changes. When you deliberately practice self-kindness it eventually becomes habit. And practicing self-kindness is really the best way I can think of to cope with any difficulty in life!

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2791523/?ncid=edlinkushpmg00000313

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5453737/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5453737/table/TAB2/?report=objectonly

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4924075/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/least-feel-like-party-need-one/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/id-tell-you-but-then-id-have-to/

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February 5, 2019

Preparation for Healing: Managing Expectations Begins With Setting Clear Intentions

It’s important to manage expectations in preparation for healing and that begins with setting clear intentions. Aaaaand, we’re back. I promised you a post about preparation as we begin to draw a map of the healing process. The Super Bowl is over. Most of us have either given up on our resolutions for the year or are quickly forming new habits. It’s a great time to settle down and set some intentions for healing.
quick guide
Some of us are healing from physical injury. Some of us are healing from an acute episode of a chronic disease. Some of us are healing from loss. Some of us are healing from social injustice. Some of us are healing from acute or prolonged trauma.

Others are stuck but want to heal. We can be stuck waiting for someone to rescue us. We can be stuck frozen in fear, fighting the world, running from reality, or brown-nosing for approval. We can be stuck believing we cannot move forward. Many of us believe this because we have tried to move forward before only to end up in the same spot over and over again.

I’m familiar with ending up in the same spot. I am good at setting and achieving goals. In spite of this, I spent many years choosing partners who were different on the surface, but the same underneath. I could see, evaluate, and change visible parameters, but my subconscious kept me stuck choosing the same sort of man.

The first time I managed to get it together enough to choose differently, I got dumped after two years. That was 10 years ago. It took years after that for me to hear the inner voice that had been telling me all along I didn’t deserve this kind, dependable man. That deep-seated subconscious belief crept into my behavior.

That rejection, painful as it was, happened to be the impetus for real change – the kind of change that comes from healing very old, very deep wounds. Healing I had searched for through church, therapy, and marriage without making any real progress.

Like many people, I could successfully meet the benchmarks required by those institutions while feeling defective, unloved, terrified, and depressed. I started and managed a successful business, created lasting friendships, raised two boys, traveled the world, and became a pilot while I was still part of the walking wounded. If you’re struggling, you are not alone. You are surrounded by other people who are struggling whether you can see it or not.

I am also proof positive that healing can happen and change can be lasting. I suppose it begins with awareness. I can’t tell you that in the beginning I was aware of much that I now know, but I knew I needed to sit still. I began with that intention.

Managing expectations for healing begins by setting clear intentions. If you intend to heal the symptoms of diabetes with the least medical intervention possible, you will walk one path. If you choose to follow whatever regimen is recommended by your doctor, you may follow another. Improving your life by getting a more meaningful job will lead you one direction while healing the effects of childhood abuse and neglect may lead you another.
intentions
In order to set clear intentions, I ask myself:

What do I hope to accomplish?
I try to find a goal that’s doable and specific. When I stated my intention to sit still in a room with no stimuli for 30 minutes per day, it seemed to fit the criteria. Then I found out I was wrong. For me at that time, it wasn’t immediately doable.

As it turned out, I had to break that intention into hundreds of smaller pieces over a significant period of time in order to be successful. I was willing to do that, and now I have the ability to comfortably sit still.

That experience taught me that no intention is too small. Sometimes my only intent for a conversation is to stay present, feel my feelings, and end the conversation when I reach the point I feel too much discomfort.

How do I want to treat other people?
You don’t have to ask yourself this, but one of the reasons I choose a healing path is to become my best self. I can’t be that if I am not treating people well.

I’m a pretty nice person generally, but if a conversation triggers an emotional flashback, I can find myself feeling terror or rage so quickly it’s hard to get ahead of the situation. What I need in that moment is to process through the flashback. I do not have the emotional strength to do that while having a civil conversation. I do everyone a favor by ending the conversation at that point and coming back to it later.

How long am I willing to commit to these intentions?
When I decided to go gluten-free, I committed for a year. My agreement with myself was that if I did not see improvement in a year, I’d go back to a regular diet. I saw improvement within weeks and major improvement in months. Long before the year was over, I amended this intention to remain gluten-free forever.

How will I measure success?
When I was preparing to start my first business, my attorney told me most businesses fail because those in charge don’t know where they are. For example, they may know they have money in the bank today, but they may not be aware that they have not sold enough to have money in the bank for the rent next month if they pay their other invoices on time. This piece of common sense for business translates to life in general.

In order for you to remain on course, it is important to have a general, realistic idea of where you are. It’s also important not to become attached to a specific result as a measure of success. If you plan to improve your life by buying a larger house but use the money you saved for a downpayment to pay unexpected medical bills, it isn’t helpful to view yourself as unsuccessful because you’re still in a small house. You adapted to changing life circumstances and made a responsible choice. I view that as a disappointment and a change in timeline, but also a successful adaptation.

If I had been married to the goal of sitting still on the couch without distraction for 30 minutes per day, I would have ruled myself an unmitigated failure at the end of a month. I didn’t even manage to sit down and stay there more than once in that month and not more than three times in the first year!

Instead, I recognized that I was gaining insight each and every time I failed. To me, that meant I was on the right path. I was failing, but I was failing up. That didn’t feel like failure. It felt like success even though I was not close to the particular goal I set. I let that goal morph into an intention to feel whatever feelings bubbled up when I sat still that I believed I needed to do something, anything, to avoid.

For me, there is a natural flow to assessing and reassessing. It’s something I do without much effort like an app constantly running in the background. That’s not true for everyone. If you need scheduled reviews, timing will be a consideration. Setting a scheduled meeting with yourself or with someone else you trust can help you feel accountable to review your progress.

Do I need feedback? If so, how much?
Feedback can be useless, helpful, or detrimental. Choosing the right type from the right sources is important. Sometimes we gravitate toward feedback that reinforces what we already believe. If we are hoping to change, that’s probably not helpful.

Some people will feel like giving feedback that’s not positive is a form of confrontation. Many people avoid confrontation like the plague. These people are not a good source for feedback because they will withhold the information you most need. As you grow, this will create an atmosphere of distrust.

Feedback can be used by others as a tool to retain or regain the status quo. When you change, everyone around you will be forced to adjust to the differences. This can feel threatening and produce resistance. Such resistance can take the form of feedback that is intended to make you stop changing.

The healing process often involves letting some relationships go in favor of others that are more in line with the direction you’re going. It may be that you opt for no feedback for the first few months while you get your sea legs.

Any feedback that causes you to doubt yourself is not productive. It’s okay to question whether your approach is the most efficient, maximizes health, or is consistent with the results you’re hoping for, but anyone whose input undermines your sense of self or trust in your body will be detrimental to the process.

If that is a therapist, feel free to change. If that is a family member, feel free to set different boundaries. If that is a colleague, limit conversations to work topics. If that is your minister, find someone else to confide in. If that is your physician, get a second opinion and/or find one who will work with you instead of against you. This is your process and it is always okay to make choices that best support you whether anyone else agrees with those choices or not. You, whether you like it or not, can be your own best advocate!

How will I celebrate success?
We expect physical healing to tax our bodies. We don’t often anticipate that emotional and spiritual healing will also tax our bodies. I prefer to celebrate success with activities that energize or inspire me, but sometimes I celebrate by taking a nap or mindlessly binge watching.

Am I willing to improve my boundaries?
Most of us will answer yes without a second thought, but the first time we are faced with telling our mother we’ll be missing an implied mandatory family gathering, we may reexamine that answer. Thinking this through in advance while setting intentions will help solidify your determination to improve boundaries that support your intentions.

Will I practice gratitude even when the process is painful?
This could be considered a separate intention, but I incorporate it as part of the primary thought process because committing to a gratitude practice enhances my chances of feeling positive during difficult times. From experience, I know practicing gratitude will automatically shift my focus in a positive direction.

Can I be kind to myself and still make progress?
Healing requires a delicate balance of self-kindness, accountability, patience, gumption, truth-telling, and bravery. Without kindness, you’ll wear yourself out and give up. You can’t white-knuckle yourself through anything forever. None of us are that strong. Factoring in kindness from the beginning will leave you less tempted to chuck accountability in favor of relief.

I am highly motivated and rarely have to push myself even during difficult, painful times. The Universe brought the lesson of self-kindness to me by bombarding me with so much over such an extended period of time that I got worn out from the sheer relentlessness of every day. I literally hit the wall and had to go to bed for a few days.

This kind of exhaustion was new to me. If I meditated, I had to lie down and let the floor hold me. Sitting up was not an option. I could not muster the energy to plan a getaway. I slept 10 – 12 hours per night. I completed every task as it came to me because I knew if I didn’t it would never get done. I was in no position to be strategic. Now I pay attention to a feeling of tiredness long before I reach the point of exhaustion.

If you think of healing as a marathon rather than a sprint, it will be easier to be kind to yourself along the way. Self-kindness includes eating well, sleeping enough, and making time for vigorous activity on a regular basis. It also includes speaking to yourself in a kind manner, pausing to receive and absorb compliments, leaning into hugs, adding beauty to your environment, allowing your feelings to flow, and making time for moments of simple pleasure.

I realize I may have just made setting intentions sound like an arduous task. Once you’ve done it a time or two, you’ll realize it’s not that hard and I believe taking the time to be clear on where you’re going and how you want to get there will give you the best chance of arriving. It certainly works for me!

https://fearlessliving.org/are-you-setting-the-wrong-goal/

https://www.made-magazine.com/made-exclusive-w-iyanla-vanzant-setting-clear-intentions-in-2019/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/3351-2/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/many-paths-healing/
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