Caregiving, Compassion & Connection
You will find connection and comfort, sharing knowledge, understanding, tips, and inspirations as well as frustrations and solutions. We will explore tools such as aromatherapy, music, meditation, relaxation, yoga, and journaling, as well as tapping into current medical research for practical support for your own health & wellness. The hazards of caregiver burnout and "compassion fatigue" are very real and you need skills to avoid them. You will find them here.
Self Care Tips & Techniques
Self care for the caregiver is vitally important, since it can help to keep a caregiver strong and in balance while providing the care necessary for their loved one. This self-care can take many forms, but the simple act of nurturing yourself, providing little "treats" for an emotional, mental health boost, finding quiet moments of pre-planned respite when you feel your composure crumbling, reminders of all the ways that life is good and concentrating on that goodness in a tangible way, centering yourself through prayer, meditation, relaxation -- these are basically what self-care is about.
1) Create a Comfort Drawer - I would recommend to all caregivers that you create a "comfort drawer" or basket for yourself, containing items that bring you calm, comfort, and simple pleasure. The types of items to include will vary widely depending on individual tastes, but here are some ideas: aromatherapy lotion or body creme (a lavender scent is very calming and balancing for most folks, or perhaps orange is right for you), a little book of inspirational quotes or daily meditations, bath salts or oils, calming tea such as chamomile, green tea, or mint. You can also put in some comfort food (think emergency chocolate, here!) but try to stay with healthy, life affirming things as much as possible. You can really have fun with this idea and get as wild and crazy as you want. You can even wrap some items up so that you surprise yourself when you open the drawer or basket for comfort. It's your comfort, so only you can really decide what belongs in this sacred spot. The point is to make some effort to give yourself support and nurturing, available easily and when you need it. Sometimes, just the act of creating of such a secret cache of comfort starts the pleasure rolling. Remind yourself that you are enough. You deserve good things that bring pleasure. Caring for yourself in this way enriches not only your own life, but that of your loved one and all those around you. Create an oasis of comfort today, so that it is waiting for you the next time you need some extra tender loving care.
Sanity Savers: For Caregivers
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2) Meditate to reduce stress - This is one of the easiest, cheapest and most sure ways to help yourself as you give care to another. There are many techniques, but current research indicates the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (made famous by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD) is the most effective at reducing stress. You might also enjoy using a guided meditation/relaxation CD, such as Gateway to Peace, or The Healing Waterfall or choose from many others. This is a great way to "detach" yourself from the demands on you, consciously relax and let yourself renew your body/mind. The benefits are tremendous and the time invested very minimal. It's well worth finding a practice that suits you. You will feel the results immediately. This type of meditation also helps with hypertension issues, which tend to be a problem for many caregivers.
3) Create a sanctuary in your home or yard - Everyone needs a place to reflect and just sit in quiet, peaceful "being-ness" -- but caregivers in particular must set aside space and time for this, either in your home or in an outdoor setting in your back yard. It doesn't have to be grand or fancy, but it needs to be readily available whenever you need it and it should be soothing and instantly bring you to a place of peacefulness. Here are some ideas for creating a meditation garden - Find a little place in your yard where you can be in solitude -- you can screen it using plants (scented herbs & flowers work beautifully for this), a room divider, a fence (or bamboo or reed fencing that you buy in 6' lengths) or even a cloth draped over a rope. If you want to get fancy, you can make a mini-meditation garden with fountain, statues, a bench, etc. but it's not necessary to go overboard. What you are after is a small space where you can just go and sit -- apart from any outer distractions. Make it comfy with a bench or chair & cushions, or blanket on the ground. You can add a water fountain if you'd like that sound. Your objective is to make a peaceful place just for you.
If the backyard doesn't work for some reason, you can create an escape "spa experience" in your own bathroom. Close the door, run a bath, add lavender or other essential oil for relaxing scent, or bubbles, light a candle and sink into oblivion and lovely relaxation. The whole idea is that you control the distractions, even if only for a brief time. These mini-respites from your daily care can save your sanity. Trust me on this. I know.
4) Get Outside and MOVE! - Exercise is crucial to keep yourself healthy and I believe nature is a wonderful healer. Combine the two! Take a daily walk (weather permitting) and get your body moving. Appreciate the beauty of the natural world and let it work its magic on your soul. If you live close to a beach or park, make regular use of it. If you don't have coverage for your loved one so that you can do this in solitude, and if they are healthy enough, bring them along! My Mom absolutely loved to go take a walk on the boardwalk at the beach. Whatever you have to do to fit this activity into you life -- DO IT! You need it to stay in balance.
Enjoy a few moments of serenity