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

We’ve All Got Habits…Are Yours Good or Bad?

Habits are simple things that we do often, and most times we’re not even conscious that we’ve engaging in our habits.  Some of our habits are taught to us like brushing our teeth, and others we happen upon because they serve some sort of purpose in our lives.  Perhaps you’re an anxious person and you pace the floors, or crack your knuckles.  We’re all aware that smoking is a bad habit, or drinking too much and a whole host of other activities.  Then again there are good habits like eating right, exercising, having a spiritual practice.  Those are actions, but did you know that emotions can be habit-forming?

The one emotion or experience that rises to the surface after being diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness is fear.  Fear can supersede all other thoughts and actions.  It can cloud your vision and make you play the “what if” game way to often.  It can have you future tripping about what might happen to you without provocation.  It sets you in a wasteland of uncertainty.  Ask yourself, “Is being afraid becoming a habit?”

I’m not sure that most of us would know whether this were actually happen, because when your caught up in the fear wave you lose sight and perspective of your current life situation.  It may not be evident in actions, so you may need to take a step back and go inward.  When you take the time to explore your internal life you’ll get a better reading about what’s going on physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Going inward doesn’t mean sitting on a cushion and meditating (although that is one way).  Going inward can be achieved through journaling, dreamwork, creative activity, meeting with a coach, therapist, or spiritual director.

The key is to recognize if in fact fear is becoming a habit and find ways to identify when it’s creeping in to your life and how to avoid the fear trap.  Believe it or not you have an established pattern, a habit, when fear is creeping in to your life.  You can back track those actions so you come to recognize the behavior or thought that sets things in motion.  (If you’re not sure what this might be or look like contact me)   The next step is to come up with strategies to short-circuit the fear so that it doesn’t bloom.  It may be as simple as replacing it with a newly formed habit.

Fear is habit-forming and interferes with your journey to wellness.  It inhibits your body, mind, and spirit from working toward getting better or well.  Don’t get caught in the trap!

Posted in Caregiving


Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!

Summer has officially begun and the 4th of July is right around the corner.  One way this becomes clear is that there are a number of stands selling fireworks throughout the area.  Unfortunately in my household there is a scaredy cat…or rather a scaredy dog.  My dog Bella is terrified by the sounds of the firework and once they begin she retreats to the corner behind the couch and the end table; a cramped little space where she feels safe.  She hides back there because, as we all know, those shooting the fireworks don’t stop after one firecracker.  She’s well aware of this so she takes measures to make herself safe.

The same is true in caregiving.  It’s a role that doesn’t end until the person is either healed or cured, and the road to recovery is filled with twists and turns.  Is it really any wonder why caregiver stress and caregiver burnout are rampant in our culture.  We expect you, the caregiver, to provide 24/7 care without backup, training, resources, or any other relief strategies.  There are self-help books and support groups and those are great, but they don’t alleviate the anticipation of waiting for the other shoe to drop with the one you love.

Caregiving is wrought with anticipation.  It leaves you, the caregiver, a little edgy at times because there is no protective barrier for you the way you serve as protection for the person facing the chronic or life-threatening illness.  The anticipation is heightened because you feel vulnerable and exposed.  In many cases you are the liaison between the patient and the doctor and let’s face it; the messenger is the one who always gets shot.

So how will you deal with your anticipation?  Anticipation is rooted in anxiety, and in this case the anxiety is rooted in fear (kind of the domino theory of caregiving).  It can be draining and exhausting unless you set procedures in place for self-care.  This is one of the times when a family meeting is very important because everyone needs to be on the same page.  Caregiving is not a one person show, it’s an ensemble cast.  Who is responsible for what in your circle?  Think of it as being a project manager.  Different people have different responsibilities and you hold those people accountable for their activities and responsibilities.

Waiting for the other shoe to drop is terrifying so the first and most important activity is to consider what makes you the most anxious.  Taking a personal inventory of your own concerns and Achilles heal is vital.  I know, for me, that illness isn’t the big anxiety producing event, but pain and suffering raises my anxiety factor.  Everyone has that one or couple of things that sends their anticipatory anxiety through the roof.  Know what it is and find ways to curb that anxiety.  Support groups are great because you may find others who have the same fears and you can become a band of brothers/sisters.

Anticipation may be great when waiting for Heinz ketchup to come out of the bottle, but it is counter-productive for your own physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness.  What are you going to do to lessen the impact of anticipation?