All content, music, videos, photos © 2018 by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
Self-care is a catch-phrase often used to address caregiver support. As a new caregiver for my mother, I struggle with keeping my balance between my responsibilities for her and my entrepreneurial and creative tasks. I get so busy with things that I forget to take care of myself.
Pay Attention To Your Self-Care Signs
Fortunately, there are signs that help me pay attention. When I start to get negative, complain, feel overwhelmed or doubt, I know it's an indicator that I need to carve out some time for self-care.
As a creator, when I feel empty of ideas, I take that as a signal that it is time to take a break from work. I'm still practicing self-care habits. Honestly, it's one of the hardest things for me to grasp. I'm used to running full-speed ahead, stopping for nothing until the tasks at hand are complete.
They're never complete, either. I run around like a hamster in circles, tending to one thing after another until I start to feel the signs. Does this sound familiar? I'm learning to start paying attention to these and...stop.
Taking Care of Yourself Is Not Just For You
There are plenty of stressors on the caregiving path, making it crucial to be in good shape for myself and others. As I've quickly discovered, being a caregiver is not for the faint of heart. Being a caregiver requires stamina. (The same can be said for being an entrepreneur and creative professional!)
Taking care of my heart keeps me in good condition to be there for my mother. This is the best possible 'why' to justify self-care. If you're like me, you struggle with having yourself be the reason for self-care. It may seem indulgent or selfish.
But the reality is that your loved one depends on you, so as caregiver you want to be in the best shape to do your best. So start thinking that everything you do for yourself, for your balance, for your health and wellness, is directly fueling the best care for your loved one.
Doing Nothing Is A BIG Something
One of the most encouraging things I've learned from devouring online caregiver and entrepreneur blogs recently, is that doing nothing is actually really something.
Research has proven that when people take breaks, they refuel creativity and are more productive at work. In Secret to Increased Productivity: Taking Time, Entrepreneur magazine writer Joe Robinson wrote, "People who engage in respite activities during workday recovery breaks have higher levels of positive affect (observable expression of emotion) after the breaks, a study led by John Trougakos at the University of Toronto found."
The Tesla innovator, Elon Musk's Chief Automotive Designer, Franz von Holzhausen followed the premise that "all work with no downtime does not equal more productivity. Your body needs rest and time away from work to recharge and attack each day anew."
Having Fun Opens Your Creativity
Historian, Teacher, Curator, Sarah Elizabeth Lewis' book, The Rise: Creativity The Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery, suggests that downtime and fun are "the improbable foundations of a creative human endeavor."
The book looks closely at creativity, sharing "narratives about" current and past creatives; writers, inventors, artists, choreographers, entrepreneurs. Lewis observes that there is so much value in 'play' that it's considered "essential for innovation."
Avoiding Burnout Protects Your Loved One
This is monumental for caregivers like you and me. We often think we can't stop helping or doing, for fear of consequences. But the reality is that caregiver burnout happens faster to those of us who don't take time off for ourselves.
You and I are no good to our loved ones if we've burned out. Like an airplane emergency, it is imperative we place the oxygen mask on ourselves first, so we can better help those around us.
Balance For Yourself And Others
As an SGI-USA Buddhist for 32+ years, I'm aware of the Buddhist concept, 'practice for oneself and others,' or 'jigyo keta' in Japanese. For years, I interpreted that to mean that I should contribute to others in order to overcome my selfishness or ego.
Sometimes that may be true. Like how volunteering for a soup kitchen can get me out of my funk during holidays when I'm alone or after a loss.
But I now realize that the balance of practice for self and others is not about sacrificing myself for others. It is not about being a martyr. Rather, it is about the equality of self and others. I cannot help others if I'm neglecting myself.
I have to remind myself that taking time off doesn't mean I'm falling behind. It means I'm filling up my tank again, so I can move forward refreshed, full of energy and a renewed spirit.
4 Ways To Manage Stress
Although the following Entrepreneur magazine excerpt refers to business owners, the idea to find ways to vent your stress is equally applicable to caregivers;
"Some successful people exercise to blow off steam. Others unplug for a night to reset their minds. Writing works wonders for many people. Journaling your daily experiences is a way to express your dreams and your frustrations without the anxiety of wondering what others might think. Many people draft cathartic emails without clicking the "Send" button. It allows them to vent and air the words they'd really like to say."
6 Best Ways To Refresh Your Wellness
1. REST. Caregivers are no good to loved ones if depleted. So, the first way to soothe your soul, is to take a break. Taking time off helps you maintain balance.
2. NATURE. For me, getting my nature fix helps me just breathe and relax again. Getting out in nature is great therapy. There's something about the vibrations in nature, the fresh air, the beauty of a landscape, the authenticity of wild animals, that calms the mind.
3. EXERCISE. Taking a short walk outdoors can boost your productivity and your mood. It doesn't take a huge workout. Just a chance to move your body a bit, and take in the sights around you will do wonders for your energy level. Not to mention your heart health.
4. CUTE ANIMALS. Speaking of the heart, wellness coach, Elizabeth Scott states that just watching photos or videos online of cute animals has been scientifically proven to relax and rejuvenate people. Taking care of your pet has an even more positive impact on your wellness, raising endorphins, lowering blood pressure, and relieving stress.
5. MUSIC. Listening to relaxing music is calming. Listening to upbeat music is energizing. Studying or playing music has health and wellness benefits that are well-documented. Get your music groove on to boost your mind, body and spirit.
6. MEDITATE OR CHANT. The health and wellness benefits of meditation are well-documented and scientifically proven. Taking a few minutes to an hour daily to meditate lowers your stress, improves your emotional state, helps you sleep, lowers your blood pressure, improves your memory and more.
There are plenty of options on how to meditate, including chanting, nature walks, being silent with your thoughts, reading, and so on. My regular daily Buddhist practice gives me positive energy, focus, hope and a wider range of compassion for others.
My mother never hesitates to say, "Go chant!" if I exhibit signs of stress or negativity. We laugh at that together, but in honesty, it proves how powerful meditation can be toward keeping one's cup full and balanced.
Take A Moment Just For You
I'd like to offer you the gift of music, nature and creativity with my homemade music video below. It has all the elements research has proven to soothe your soul. The beauty of nature scenes, the sound of birds, the wind blowing gently, my classical-based piano music, all in a short video.
It is my sincere hope that watching this video brings you a moment of stress relief, calmness, and a refreshed spirit. I hope it inspires you to stop your carousel, and take some time off to care for your spiritual wellness.
This may function as a kind of musical meditation for you. Or, it may motivate your creative energy to start something new. Maybe it encourages you to take a walk today in the great outdoors.
But doing something for yourself, making time for self-care, is ultimately what will fuel your best self. Self-care is a proven way to manage stress and recharge to put your best foot forward.
Share your self-care determinations, tips, or questions in the comments below!
Click on the play button below to
watch my winter scene nature video
and hear my original piano music, "Karmic Thread".
by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
If you’re like me, self-care tends to drop to the bottom of your to-do list. Job workloads, home maintenance, family or caregiver commitments, volunteer, faith-based and social activities. Things can pile up like an immovable mountain.
MEDICAL BENEFITS FROM SELF-CARE
According to an article published by The Pharmaceutical Journal, “Self care has been defined by the Department of Health as ‘the care taken by individuals towards their own health and well-being — including the care extended to the family and the community.’ The definition is broad and encompasses the actions required for people to maintain good physical and mental health, to meet their social and psychological needs and prevent illness or accidents.”
Self-care decreases numbers of medical visits, improves medical consultations and implementation of medicinal treatments. But self-care goes far beyond these medical improvements.
SELF-CARE MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD
When you practice self-care, you feel good about yourself. Others pick up on your positive vibe, and that impacts your relationships. People who neglect themselves tend to feel lower self-esteem and negative emotions. This affects health overall. Taking care of yourself has a direct influence on others in your life. When you feel good, you can do better for others.
The basics of self-care are critical to maintaining emotional, mental balance and good health. These include proper sleep, healthy eating habits, exercise, prayer or other spiritual activities.
Regular self-care helps you manage stress. Simply taking a break to be alone, or experience nature, or have a soothing spa-like treatment as simple as a hot bubble bath are ways to lower stress levels and increase positive emotions. When you feel good about yourself, you attract positivity from others, too.
As Elizabeth Scott, MS, states, “A simple but often overlooked form of self-care is having a self-pampering experience on a regular basis in your own home." She suggests simple in-home spa-like treatments, like taking a bath, deep conditioning your hair, clipping or painting your nails, or getting a massage (by a masseuse or an electronic massage device).
CREATING A PERSONAL SPA OASIS
To better balance my life, one of my best decisions while working as a Florida public school teacher was creating an oasis for myself. I had a small Florida yard with a privacy fence and gates I had installed. I used that space to create my beloved tropical garden. My garden produced Monarch, Swallowtail, Gulf Fritillary butterflies, pineapples, herbs, Golden Rain Trees, Bougainvillea, and myriad flowers.
Gardening in the Florida heat inspired me to get a small swimming pool installed, where I could enjoy my garden view. My backyard swimming pool was an incredible oasis. A place where I could unwind, let go of daily stress, quiet my busy mind and chill. It was one of the best investments I made because it gave me a reason to take care of myself. Cooling off after a long workday was therapeutic for me.
I enjoyed the silence and privacy of having a moment all to myself. Relaxing in my private swimming pool allowed me to experience nature at its finest. Lying on my float, I absorbed the vast, stillness of the blue skies. Watching puffs of white clouds floating leisurely above me slowed my typically fast-paced thoughts. Instead, I focused on the beauty of the universe.
THERAPEUTIC TROPICAL PARADISE
I swam like a lazy mermaid, mesmerized by the world of color and peacefulness in my garden. I watched gorgeous Monarch butterflies flit from tropical milkweed plant leaves, drop egg babies, circle around invisible pathways above my little yard, and repeat dozens of times. I observed the progress of those eggs as they became full-fledged caterpillars chomping those milkweed plants down to empty green stems.
I saw the astounding metamorphic graduation of green chrysalides; darkening from black to translucent with golden orange and black, until crumpled newborn butterflies pushed their withered shells open, emerging as upside down shiny jewels.
I was even able to coax newly eclosed butterflies to climb my fingers until I decided to place them on a hibiscus or lantana bloom. Or, sometimes, with a flick of my wrist, spur new flights into motion. What a joy.
HOW I CREATED A SALTWATER SPA EXPERIENCE
I replaced my chlorine pump with a saltwater pump. This allowed me to avoid heavy chemicals and save money by using only salt. (See my blog and video on how to do that here.) The feel of the pure saltwater-infused pool was like physical therapy to my aching body after a long, hot day. Submerging slowly into the softness of pure water melted my daily stress into oblivion. Relaxing my tight muscles by a dip in my private pool was a great source of relaxation and rejuvenation.
MAKE TIME FOR SELF-CARE
Getting a moment away from the noisy, busy, rapid-speed of daily life is not easy. Many of us don’t even try to fit in self-care because we’re so busy chasing our tails to keep up with the spinning world. But, from having my private swimming pool and garden oasis, I kept my sanity.
It detoxed my mind, body and spirit. Having that time in nature to relax in a quiet, beautiful setting gave me balance. Being able to take in the beautiful sights in my garden while silently resting in my pool was an enormous gift. It taught me the necessity of taking care of myself.
You don’t have to create a saltwater swimming pool to bring self-care into your life. Besides, everyone doesn’t live in a tropical climate. I’ve moved from Florida back to Kentucky to be caregiver for my mother while following my entrepreneurial dreams. So, the wisdom of self-care is calling my name once again.
Taking this moment to recall the beauty of my Florida garden and swimming pool oasis brings me the joy of reliving my homemade spa experience. Sometimes envisioning and taking a breath is all it takes to bring a bit of balance back into your life.
What are some ways you can apply self-care in your daily life?
For a list or resources and products I used to create my summer pool oasis, click here.
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All photos by Jenny Leigh Hodgins. All rights reserved.
by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
Shining like a pot of gold
this light within--
my promised land.
I want to hold it in the
palm of my hand--
and truly understand
how the years of
ups and downs
dramas told, tragedy,
built this composite of me-
That when reflected upon I see
as a bright, burning potential
taking misery to mission
changing pain into credential
Defined by my decision
to purify my heart's vision.
This brilliant treasure in my life--
Glistening Jewel that I possess
emanating from the Paradise
that exists inside of me--Nonetheless,
can seem so far away, I confess.
Peeling away false layers of reality,
I've learned to look beyond illusion
like fame or fortune in society
--such things are mere delusion;
Fleeting, empty, yet in *fusion*
with the total life, the picture whole;
The truth that everything connects--
from macrocosm to unique soul...
--that a single prayer injects into
the story one person directs...
and if I am the actress upon this stage,
I wrestle like madness against all sorrow, in struggles and torment,
I raise myself to change tomorrow
To climb again, my Kilimanjaro...
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In my Caregiver blogs, you'll find I understand the internal struggles and daily stress as a caregiver juggling entrepreneurial life.