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".
(This piece originally appeared at TheCaregiverSpace.org )
By Jenny Leigh Hodgins
I segued into the role of caregiver for my aging parent quicker than expected. Last year, I left my 30-year career, and sold my Florida home to move back to Kentucky as my mother’s caregiver. I planned to be in place well ahead of need, while I transitioned to working remotely as a freelancer.
1. LIFE’S CURVEBALLS AND SLEDGEHAMMERS
Things don’t always go according to plan. Life hits with big moments whenever it damn well feels like it. Like many adult children, I face the bittersweet reality of being a caregiver to my parent before either of us are ready. I thought I’d have time to ease into the role, but sometimes health issues pop up or wallop like a sledgehammer.
What a wake-up call, being there when Mom is ill, pained face, weak and trembling, incoherent and out-of-it. Alone in that moment, feeling the full burden of being responsible for her well-being can be an enormously scary place. Facing the impending reality of that final chapter in the cycle of life is not for sissies.
The foreign world of medical terms, insurance and co-pays, increasingly hectic medical appointment schedule, and daily living responsibilities can add up to an overwhelming mountain of pressure. I hadn’t anticipated how my own daily rhythm would be derailed, interrupted or flat-out sacrificed at times.
2. GET AHEAD OF THE CURVE
The learning curve comes swiftly, so I’ve found it best to get my game plan in place, and build my life-state to be ready to play. I’ve discovered the importance of taking care of myself. Putting that oxygen mask on myself first enables me to ward against getting overwhelmed or sick, and be better prepared emotionally, spiritually and practically as caregiver.
3. GET YOUR GAME ON
That means I have to protect my daily rhythm. To be effective in my work as a writer and composer, as a caregiver, and more balanced in my wellness, I have to establish ‘me time’. I rise early to pray, eat and have uninterrupted workflow when I function at my best.
I schedule exercise later in the day to maintain my energy. I use my smartphone calendar app to send me alerts so I stay, or get back on, task. Mapping out my own daily schedule and preserving it as best I can keeps me on top of things and less overwhelmed when Mom’s needs arise.
4. PLAN TO BE THERE IN ADVANCE
I’m grateful to have already settled in, so I’m here when Mom needs me. Not having to rush from another state, or even across town, or leave my workplace, is one load of worry off our minds. My being in place takes some burden off my other family members who don’t have the liberty of leaving jobs, children or properties.
5. TEAM HUDDLE
Keeping open communication with Mom and family members about her health, financial and social needs, as well as legal plans, distributes the caregiving load and assures Mom that we are onboard and unified to uphold her wishes. Getting things in place beforehand helps alleviate worry from all. This attempt to keep all in the loop brings us closer in harmony to one another. For the caregiver, that support from family team players is indispensable to peace of mind, providing further strength for the tasks ahead.
6. KNOW WHAT YOU KNOW
Getting to know my mother’s daily rhythm gives me knowledge useful for effective emergency response. Being familiar with her usual mannerisms, daily lifestyle, energy, verbal and cognitive responses makes it easy to recognize when something isn’t right.
Paying attention to symptoms early on allows early detection and an upper hand in maintaining her wellness. Knowing her doctors, appointments, medications, and health issues is powerful ammunition against mishaps, and preventative against health problems that could run undetected.
The role of caregiver can present itself sooner than anticipated, bringing unexpected, new challenges. But I’m finding that having a game plan, a great team that communicates well, a strategy for maintaining my wellness, and tackling challenges with gusto allows me to respond well even to the hardest curveball.
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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.