Posted in care for the caregiver, Caregiving, Emotional Health, Relationships, Self-Nurture

The Caregiver Experience…How You Can Channel the Amazing Kreskin?

Do you remember the Amazing Kreskin? He was best known for, what we believed was, reading minds. So many of us would see him on television and wonder how he was able to achieve these monumental perceptions and knowledge of what the subject was thinking.

If we were able to read minds life would be so much easier. The capacity to anticipate the needs of others would be a saving grace. Understanding what others need doesn’t have to be a circus sideshow; it needs to be rooted in communication and honesty.

When facing a chronic or life-threatening illness, especially when going through treatment, there are needs and desires that ease the discomfort of this part of the journey. The person who is taking medications may result in mood or behavior changes. These changes can cause tension and make you, the caregiver, feel like you’re living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This is disconcerting and causes you, the caregiver, to question your role in the life of the patient. It also makes you question the sacrifices you’ve made because you’re feeling under appreciated.

Caregiving is a role in life that is often like being the producer and director of a theater production. You may be the coherent one during doctor’s appointments keeping track of the medications, lab orders, and doctor’s appointments. You become the Director of Transportation as you get the patient back and forth from all their appointments.

In all my years of clinical work the one aspect of the family dynamic that creates the most friction is when the person undergoing treatment is not anticipating what the patient needs. You are responsible for being the advance person, and you thought the President of the United States was the only person with an advance team.

Because there is so much “we” time when caregiving, you may feel as if you’re losing your sense of individuality. Everything is filtered through the lens of the illness. It’s crucial that you take some time to keep yourself an individual. The person undergoing treatment may use the guilt card wanting to keep you close, and even when you make plans for a surrogate caregiver, that guilt often hangs heavy over your head. Don’t give in to the cloud of guilt! The person undergoing treatment has survived difficult treatments and side effects from medications; they’ll survive you taking an hour or two for a yoga class, a meeting of your book club, or some creative time in your art studio.

It would be wonderful if we all had the mind reading gifts of the Amazing Kreskin, and in many respects you do. You’re not the caregiver because you’re a stranger; you’re near and dear to the person facing the diagnosis. Whether you believe it or not you do have mindreading capabilities. You know what the favorite foods, television programs, and genre of books is of the patient.

It’s amazing that you can anticipate what the patient needs, and yet many caregivers haven’t a clue about what they need to continue on the caregiving journey. This is one of those times when a caregiver needs a caregiver. I urge you to enlist a friend or family member to keep you grounded and to serve as your touch with reality. This person will be your mirror so you can be alerted when you need rest, a break from the illness arena, or just a reminder of who you are as a person in the world, aside from illness.

You are the Amazing Kreskin, or maybe we can say you’re simply Amazing!

For more information on health and healing visit, http://www.survivingstrong.com

Interested in art and healing read the blog: http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

 

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Posted in after the diagnosis, creativity and health, Emotional Health, Living with Illness, Self-Nurture

Create a Space Worthy of Healing

I have to admit that I watch a lot of HGTV.  I’m particularly drawn to “House Hunters International” and as of recent, been watching reruns of “My Favorite Place”.  I like to see how these famous personalities create spaces that not only function for their lives, but also actually serve a purpose…the spaces are designed mindfully.

Since arriving back home from my five-month assignment in west Texas, I’ve been thinking a lot about one space in the house.  I’ve been focusing on the space that serves as my art studio and my office.  Upon arriving home from my previous assignment in Nashville, I decided I needed a real desk so I could anchor my consciousness in a place devoted to writing.  My current return has me focused on the functionality of the space for multiple purposes.  I had two big farm tables for my textile art but it took up too much space functionally and visually.  I removed one of the tables giving me room to walk around the studio without bumping into things.

I still had one problem and that was I didn’t have a space to read.  I can’t read with technical material with the television on or music playing.  I need to concentrate when I’m absorbing new material.  I also needed a place where I could knit (part of my spiritual practice) without worrying about animal hair flying around.  I decided to buy a chair for the studio/office.

Yesterday I went to a huge furniture store and began my hunt for a chair.  I had specific requirements for the chair.  Obviously it had to be comfortable, but it also had to be functional.  Functional for knitting required the chair to be armless so I don’t keep banging my elbows while creating the shawls I’ve been knitting for the past three years.  It had to have enough support since I plan on spending a fair amount of time in the chair, and it of course had to be beautiful.

Armed with my phone (with a camera) so I could take pictures I set off on my quest for a chair.  I sat in almost forty chairs looking for the chair.  I felt a lot like Goldilocks while searching for this chair, and sure enough I found it.  The chair is armless, comfortable and the fabric is neutral.  The chair is covered with types of tea; it’s from the Teahouse collection ( I drink a lot of tea so I felt it was appropriate).

Why is all of this talk about a chair important?  It’s important because part of health and healing requires you to have spaces that are calming and soothing.  Your space needs to be a reflection of you because it’s another form of self-expression.  I find that I can enter this space and my body, mind, and spirit take a break from the chaos outside of this room.  Yes, I usually have one or more animals with me, but they stare out the window or sleep; they understand the peaceful nature of the room.

I have a beautiful photograph on the wall of painted silk drying on 30-foot high poles drying in the wind, a photo taken in China.  My desk has small pieces of art and a photograph of the crew I most recently worked with in Texas.  It was a parting gift when the contract ended.  The caption on the photo is, “We make things happen”.

What type of space would you create for your health and healing sanctuary?  How can you claim a space that’s yours for spending peaceful time?  It doesn’t have to be a room, it can be the corner of a room, but it has to be yours.  It needs to be a reflection of both your soul, and the intention you set for your healing practice.

I’d love to hear about your spaces!  Share your ideas down below in the comment section or email me at greg@survivingstrong.com

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Emotional Health, Self-Nurture

Going To Hell

If you’ve been reading the blog you know that I’m temporarily based in San Antonio, TX.  I get to and from work on the bus so I’ve got lots of stories to tell (you’ll have to wait for the book for those stories) about the attitudes we have about things in our daily lives.  Here’s the story…

Last week a woman was talking to a friend on her cell phone, a bit loud because of the noise of the bus, about some legal trouble with her son.  It kept me amused for a time, but as we all know we all have certain obstacles to overcome in our lives. 

Today the woman got on the bus and after a few moments her phone started clucking like a chicken.  She answered the phone, and from her response I believe the question she was asked was, “Where are you going?”  Her response, “Where do you think I’m going…hell!”  I heard that and from last weeks conversation I know she works managing apartments.

I began to think of her comment about going to hell.  I can’t imagine commuting to a job and then spending at least 8 hours in a day I believed to be hell.  Call me crazy, but wouldn’t you look to do something else?  I was thinking about this because I was wondering what part or aspect of our lives do we consider hell and why are we there? 

It’s important following the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness to rid yourself of those places you consider hell.  Don’t get me wrong, you may not find heaven on earth, but finding a place of comfort and peace has got to do the body, mind, and soul a world of good.

Scientists have shown us that there is a mind-body connection.  If you belive that you’re sitting in hell what message are you sending the body?  If you’re health challenged do you really want to add fuel to the fire, no pun intended.  If the goal is to extricate yourself from hell on earth, take this time as one of reflection and resetting priorities.  Give yourself the gift of peace-of-mind and possibly even passion.

Don’t spend your life in hell; it just makes matters worse.  If you want to be on the journey to wellness take a stand against hell and find joy.

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness, Self-Nurture

The Self-Healing Body

Ever wonder how the body heals itself after a cut or scrape?  (I’m dangerous in the kitchen with a sharp knife so I’ve witnessed my body heal too many times to count)  It seems small, but somehow the body finds its way to wholeness.  Could we really be created to self-heal?  I think it’s an important question because when we reframe ideas or beliefs it can impact how we live our lives.  When diagnosed with an illness it’s important to begin thinking about how are we clogging the path to self-healing.  What are we doing, believing, thinking that puts a kink in the hose preventing the healing powers flow through our body.  Of course we need to realize that we’re not utilizing enough of our brain to heal all illnesses, but what part of each illness can be self-healed?

We live in a culture that prides itself on busy-busy-busy.  I can’t tell you how many phone calls I get that start with the words, “I’m so overwhelmed…”.  That can’t be good for the body.  So how do we afford ourselves the opportunity to self-heal?  Think very carefully about the following four areas of your life and take a good, honest look at how you rate in each category.

Nutrition:  Are you eating good food?  Are you eating?  If you can only eat a small amount are you making the most of the calorie intake and the level of nutrition?

Exercise: This isn’t about running marathons, but it is about the body moving.  Even if all you can do is watch and episode of “sit and be fit” then you’re making progress.  I remember coming back from Japan years ago and about 1 hour before we landed the flight attendant came over the intercom and instructed us in airplane aerobics.  They want us to stretch and oxygenate our bodies, revinvorating the cells before we got off the plane.

Rest: Rest doesn’t always mean sleep, but sleep ranks high (unless that’s all you do, then there may be other issues at play).  The body needs time to rejuvenate and regenerate itself.  When we sleep we dream and that’s one way to discharge stress from our bodies.  Rest means taking a moment without an agenda and letting your body have some down time.  I differentiate between rest and sleep because issues like pain may impact sleep, but rest may serve you.

Connections:  We’re social creatures so how are you being social.  I’m not saying you should spend every night out on the town, but regular contact with friends and family reduces our feelings of isolation.  This is especially important when facing a chronic or life-threatening illness.  We need to nourish our souls and our emotional life and we do this by staying connected to others.

So how did you do?  Do you give yourself high marks for aiding your self-healing powers?  All four are important no matter what your health status, but they get amplified following an illness diagnosis.  Let me know how you’re doing and how you’ve achieved these accomplishments.  Also let me know where you’re getting stuck and we can focus on those areas in coming articles.

If you haven’t visited the website check out http://www.survivingstrong.com.  I just launched a new site that offers videos with helpful hints to improve your health and healing.  Check out http://www.survivingstrongtv.com.

Posted in after the diagnosis, Caregiving, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness, Self-Nurture, Uncategorized

Patience is a Virtue

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!!

Ever notice that we are a culture that is always in a hurry?  Think of the driver on the freeway who rushes past you only to be stopped ahead by the same traffic you’re stopped by.  We rush to get to places thinking that if we get there first we’ll win a prize.  The truth is that when facing an illness there is a lot of waiting that goes on for both the patient and the caregiver.

I’m always amazed at how patient caregivers are when escorting patients to appointments.  I think doctors and medical office designers should enlist the input of caregivers since they spend so much time in waiting room…what’s with the ugly art and the uncomfortable chairs.  I’m not expecting it to be like the Taj Mahal, but the metal from the chair leaves many caregivers needing a chiropractic adjustment.

One of the most difficult aspects of caregiving is the wait.  You wait in doctor’s offices and hospital waiting rooms.  You wait a set number of hours before administering medication.  You wait, hope and may even pray that the person you’re caring for bounces back from their illness.  It’s a waiting game and that uncertainty can be unnerving.

I would encourage you to use the waiting time wisely.  First find some way to reduce your level of anxiety while in waiting mode.  Maybe you meditate while waiting, some may have knitting or journaling.  It’s not about distraction, although that may be an outcome, but sitting and releasing the anxiety that comes with waiting.

While waiting take the time to acknowledge the impact the illness is having on your life.  I can assure you that you aren’t free and clear from the impact.  There is something we call “vicarious trauma” and that’s where the impact of the witnessing the illness process imprints on our own hearts and souls.  Understand that you are in essence a co-patient.  The only difference is the actual patient is having treatments to alleviate their trauma and you, the caregiver, sit in waiting for the person to get well.

I hope that you’ll find ways to release the energy that is impacting your own experience of the illness.  If you haven’t had a physical exam in a while this a great thing to do, right now!  Knowing where your own health stands allows you to have someone looking out for your own well-being.  It sets a baseline so that as your caregiving responsibilities move forward your health isn’t compromised.

Caregiving is strenuous physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Don’t wait for things to happen, make things happen.  If you need resources research them so you don’t feel alone.  Work toward self-empowerment so you don’t put your life on hold yet waiting once again.  Find out from other caregivers how they survived this journey, this is no time to re-invent the wheel, a trail is already blazed.

How do you take your life off hold?  Share with others how you handle the waiting, let’s be in this together!

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness, Self-Nurture

Choose To Be Happy

Welcome to another Caregiver Friday!

One of my favorite books is “The Traveler’s Gift” by Andy Andrews.  I’ve mentioned his book a number of times because I believe the lessons are simple and can be adapted to anyone’s life.  I was thinking about the caregivers I know and aside from being tired, many have present with a sense of defeat.  They know that the care they provide is important, but it’s certainly not the life they planned for.

In “The Traveler’s Gift” the main character meets with Anne Frank.  The lesson she presents is “Today I choose to be happy”.  I know that it may seem like a difficult idea to comprehend, but finding a way to rekindle and experience joy is crucial to caregiving.

Energy is like money.   Every day you are given a finite amount of energy.  The key question is how will you spend that energy today?  Financial experts will say that you should always pay yourself first and then divide the remaining money for creditors, in your case, those who need your caregiving attention.

What would you do to pay yourself first?  What activities or spiritual practices will you engage in to invest in you for today?  The bigger question is can you keep it up and continue investing in your own happiness.  You may think that there is a disconnect between your personal happiness and the care you give as a care provider.  The truth is the two are directly correlated.  When you give yourself the gift of time and the experience of happiness you develop physical and emotional resilience.  You learn to disconnect from the drama of day-to-day caregiving and awaken to a new set of priorities that benefit you and the recipient of your care.

My wish for you today is that you make the right choices that keeps you connected to your center.  I hope you find ways that inject happiness into your life so you get to experience the sunshine in the sky and in your heart.

Posted in care for the caregiver, Caregiving, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Emotional Health, Self-Nurture

Caregiving is Like Being an Air Traffic Controller

Happy 4th of July and welcome to Caregiver Friday.

I’m in awe of caregivers.  Not only do they show compassion and understanding to the person they’re caring for who is ill, but they have perfected the fine art of multi-tasking.  Ever looked at the calendar of a caregiver?  It’s filled with reminders of appointments, lab tests, procedures and on top of that all the other responsibilities for family, work and community.  To be a caretaker you have to be able to prioritize, categorize and memorize information, schedules and on top of that be able to delegate.

Somewhere in the mix it’s crucial that caregivers find a way to get some help.  I know that many say if they ask for help then they aren’t a very good caregiver.  In fact the opposite is true, you become a better caregiver when you understand how to become a caretaker to your own body and soul.

I would like to recommend that caregivers make it a point to have regular physicals.  As is often the case your so wrapped up in taking care of the sick person that you put your own health needs on the back burner…that’s a big mistake.  Don’t just take care of your physical body, take care of your emotional health.  Attend a support group specifically for caregivers.  Learn tips from others who have already walked in your shoes, don’t try and reinvent the wheel.  Take care of your spiritual needs.  I don’t mean you have to go to church/synagogue/mosque etc. but finding that place of quiet can be better than a vacation.

Remember that as the caregiver, you feel responsible for everything, even if that’s not the case…it comes with the territory.  We’ll talk more about delegating in weeks to come, but for now know that you are heroes.  I can’t believe that Hallmark hasn’t created a National Caregiver’s Day, just think of the number of cards they would sell.

You may not hear it often but I’d like to say THANK YOU for your sacrifices, your thoughtfulness and your willingness to care for those you love.  If you need a pick-me-up there is a musical audiovisual program as a free gift at http://www.survivingstrong.com.  It’s something you can go back to over and over to recharge.

I’d love to hear tips on how you cope with caregiving and we could share them with the world.