For the Caregiver Who Doesn’t Feel Like Celebrating Easter

EasterEaster Sunday or Easter Some Day?

Some celebrate with new outfits, decorating eggs, and a sunrise service at church. Others hide goodies for the little ones to hunt and then spend the rest of the day in the kitchen preparing a feast. Caregivers often just feel overwhelmed.

I didn’t grow up in a church that made a big deal about Easter Sunday (nor Lent, nor Palm Sunday). Other kids got new outfits, chocolate bunnies, and Easter egg hunts. I didn’t get why Christmas fell on the same day every year, but Easter hopped all over.

My dad explained that since no one had modern calendars back when Jesus was born, no one really knew whether he was born on December 25th or not. I never did get an explanation about why Easter falls on a different day each year. But I didn’t want to push the issue, because it took a fair amount of finagling to have a Christmas tree and celebrate Jesus’ birth. I didn’t want to push my luck by advocating for a holiday I couldn’t keep track of.

So I understand what it feels like when the whole world seems buzzing with excitement over a holiday you just can’t get in to. Don’t get me wrong. I know the significance of Jesus’ resurrection. I know he died on the cross on a Friday, got put in the tomb before sundown, and came back to life on Sunday morning.

The Caregiver’s Easter Moments

You don't need to stage a celebration to experience resurrection power! http://wp.me/p2UZoK-1De via @blestbutstrestAs a caregiver, I’ve experienced a small measure of the despair Jesus’ disciples felt as they saw him take his last breath on the cross. I have waited through the night, wondering if Pedro’s next breath would be his last. Because of a miracle, Pedro kept on breathing. But I understand the agony. I also understand the unbounded joy when a loved one pulls through—a resurrection of sorts.

I have despaired whether or not we would ever see our youngest daughter again. Friends wept and prayed with me through a torturous night of doubt. I understand the deep well of gratitude when a prodigal comes home—defying death and destruction and proving once again the miracle of rebirth.

So if you’re feeling wiped out and unable to celebrate anything today, dear caregiver, it’s ok. You don’t have to stage a celebration to experience the unbounded joy of knowing that Jesus lives. Hiding eggs and chocolate bunnies or slaving in a hot kitchen all day will not make the resurrection more real in the lives of the ones you love.

#Caregiver, you don't have to stage a celebration to know the joy of the #resurrection. Click To Tweet

Living each day with the knowledge that you follow the one who conquered the grave—now THAT has an impact. My Jesus conquered death; I know he can conquer my bad attitude. My Jesus has the keys to the grave; I know he can conquer my doubts and fears.

When we let Jesus conquer things for us, we have room in our lives for joy. And we don’t need to wait around for Easter Sunday (whenever it might fall) to celebrate.

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

 Loading InLinkz ...

 

Karma or Grace

Which do we give? Which do we deserve?

The idea that we get what we deserve – Karma.

Many of us know popular phrases regarding Karma in our lives, even if it’s not our belief system.  A few of us have wished Karma to happen to those around us.  One or two of us have had our choices come back around and bite us.  Karma seems to be the Hindu and Buddhist version (with a twist) of the Christian Golden Rule: do to others as you would have them do to you.

 It has to do with the consequences of our actions.

Today my eighth grade students, their parents and I, held a yard sale event in order to raise money for their class trip and graduation.  It’s been a work-in-progress for weeks. It’s not a small job, but it is a way to earn money.

Christianity says: Do as Christ did – not as we deserve, but as we’d like

One lady came to our sale and it appeared she might not have a lot of money – her simple clothing, her self-styled hair and her careful shopping all gave us clues.  After selecting with deliberation, she approached to pay for her $4.50 purchase.  She handed me five dollars and told me to keep the change. “It’s for the kids!” she spoke with a sweet and loving smile.  She spotted the brownies the students and I had baked and asked the price.

“Fifty cents,” I replied.

She immediately dug into her purse with a mischievous grin.  “I must have one – after all I need energy to walk home.”

The mom helping me waved her aside, “No!  You already paid an extra fifty cents – just take the brownie!”

Again that kind smile,

“No.  No, it’s for the kids.”

And she bid us an all-encompassing goodbye, wishing the students a wonderful class trip.

Meanwhile, a much younger lady plowed through the clothes, tossing garments one way and then the other.  She had removed her own shirt to try on several others, leaving herself in a black camisole.  Her boyfriend (I’m assuming, I don’t actually know) backed away, walked around nonchalantly for quite some time and then got in his car and drove away, leaving her to toss clothing at will.

I watched her off and on, because her manner was abrupt, slightly rude and a little shifty.  She had darkly dyed hair and spackled on make-up and when someone reached for a shirt, she grabbed it and examined it carefully.  It was odd – it’s a yard sale for goodness sake.

Friendly conversation flowed around her and it was well-established, among those shopping, that this yard sale benefited these hard-at-work students.

A customer asked me a question and as I drifted off to assist him I lost sight of the black camisole.  When I looked up, she was no longer at the table.  I guess it’s a teacher thing, because my eyes automatically scanned the area and spotted her, with many clothing items over her arms, trotting around the back corner of the building and out of sight.  I heard a car engine rev and saw the boyfriend’s car zoom onto the street and away.

The moms and I muttered about people stealing form the kids and felt a little miffed at her behavior.  Frankly, we were dealing with donations and we were cutting deals like crazy – it’s what you do at a yard sale.  Had she asked, we would have sold her those items for very little – but because she didn’t ask, we were indignant at the theft.

One of the helpers sifted through clothing, folding and straightening.  Suddenly she let out a little guffaw and held up a bright pink phone.  She opened the phone and yes, karma is real.  The lady who stole the clothing had left her phone behind – unlocked, so we could easily verify whose pictures it featured.

The karma gets better.

Shortly after, two police cars pulled up.  The officers got out and sauntered over to take their coffee break, buying the baked goods and drinks from the kids in order to offer their support to our cause.  The mom took their business card handed them the phone.

For some reason (and maybe this is not a proud moment) it gave us all a little moment of glee that this lady had stolen $7 worth of clothing (maybe) and had left her smart phone.

In all honesty – haven’t you had those moments? Gleeful moments where someone who treated you so rudely at work is the one to get in trouble with the boss?  Self-righteous moments where you saw someone shop-lift and watched security pick them up?  Have you seen those videos where the car that cuts off the semi-truck get bumped into the ditch?  It makes my students giggle, how about you?

But sometimes they’re not little moments.  Sometimes it’s not glee, but revenge that might burn in the heart.  That jerk who stole money gets busted.  Deserved.  That embezzler who loses it all.  Asked for it.  That bully who gets put-down and reviled.  Karma.

I remember when a cancer diagnosis went with a little shake-of-the-head and a sigh, “Well, he smoked all his life.”  I’ve seen people murmur at an accident scene, “Drunk – she had it coming.”

So Karma fights with “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”

We must train ourselves not to hope the revenge happens. Instead of dealing out reactions to other’s choices, we must choose to treat as we would want to be treated, not as they deserve.  Why?

As Christians, we have not received Karma – we are not forced to receive what we deserve. “ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  Sin has separated us forever from a God of love and light.  But our God does not deal in Karma, He deals in grace.

 

He took our #Karma and dealt us #grace. #inspirememonday Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

 Loading InLinkz ...

The Nature of the Beast

Life Gets Crazy

“It’s the nature of the beast,” I wrote to Anita in one of our many chats:  things pile up in the worst possible ways.

The end of the quarter looms a week away – grades are due, finals given, frantic make-up assignments might possibly be turned in by desperate students and/or more anxious parents.  The yearbook, one of my advisory duties, is due tomorrow – ads need to be polished, pages reviewed, lists double and triple-checked, pictures counted and words edited.  I might have a child that is not wanting to turn in (let alone DO) his homework (it’s stupid, you know) – assignment sheets must be checked, projects supervised and motivation offered.  I’m the sponsor of the 8th Grade class – graduation must be planned, tributes written, gowns and flowers ordered and class trips planned.  It’s spring – students shrug off assignments previously easily completed, drama happens from the slightest thing, and end of the year projects and trips are suddenly imminent.  I’m a writer – I need to meet deadlines, post blogs, write stories and put thoughts into order.

Besides being simply a long list, we have to complete everything well, correctly, on-time and with a smile on our faces.  Is that even possible?

It’s the nature of the beast that when life gets crazy in one area, it’s a certainty that it’ll spin out of control like the Gravity Max, Full Throttle or Sky Scream (great names for crazy roller coasters found at www.coasterguy.wordpress.com 

It’s the nature of the beast – life runs out of control like a crazy roller coaster!
(credit to coasterguy.wordpress.com for great pic)

This is all true for caregiving and parenthood, teaching and doctoring, musicians and authors.  Life gets crazy.  It zooms up and down and then flies around in circles, forwards and backwards.  Events spin upside down and right-side up so fast it’s hard to tell which way is actually correct!

Just like a roller-coaster, once locked in, we have to finish the ride!  Getting off is not really an option.

So what do I do?  My heart rate increases while my sleep decreases.  My worry rises as my exercise takes a back-seat to deadlines.  The pile-up can drive me crazy!

Or.

I can take one thing at a time.  Make a list.  Ask for help.  Communicate my needs.  Scream as needed.  Laugh often. I can hang on while realizing that the ride will end.  Everyone might not be glad they were on the ride, but lessons will be learned, goals accomplished, and relationships cemented.

It’s the nature of the beast.  Life gets crazy.  Hang on, scream, laugh and enjoy the ride.

It’s the nature of the beast. Life gets crazy. Hang on, scream, laugh and enjoy the ride.… Click To Tweet

 

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

 Loading InLinkz ...

What You Need to Do to Avoid Caregiver Burnout

A Good Night’s Rest Provides the Elixir for Caregiver Burnout

Pedro ‘circled the drain’—his life hung in the balance and no one knew for sure how to stop the infections that waged war on his chemo-weakened body. The doctors had started using drugs they thought might work. They also spent long minutes sitting on his bed, staring at him. It’s never a good sign when a doctor takes the time to sit on a patient’s bed.

caregiver burnout

I felt weary. For six months we had battled cancer, and now this. I numbed myself with food. Praying took too much effort. My friends did the heavy prayer lifting for me.  I had no energy to form words and thoughts and sentences.

My uncomfortable chair-posing-as-a-bed in Pedro’s hospital room kept me tossing and turning. Just when I would fall asleep, a nurse would come in to check Pedro’s vitals, or Pedro would start awake, needing something.

The night before, a family friend had arrived to visit. He posed an interesting question that I answered without thinking. “If you could do anyting you wanted to do right now, what would it be?”

I responded with the first thing that popped into my head, “Soak in a hot tub.”

“Why don’t you do it?” he asked. “I’ll stay here with Pedro and you find a hotel with a hot tub.”

I found a place to stay on a bus route, and safely made my way to a small hotel. For the first time in months I luxuriated in a decent night’s sleep. The impersonal hotel room and soothing soak in a bath had worked like balm to my broken thoughts and frantic worry. I had arrived back at the hospital feeling as if I could handle the next second, the next minute, the next hour, the next decision.

Five Minutes on the Phone Undoes A Night of Good

My cell phone buzzed, and I hurried from the room to take the call. I wish I hadn’t. Unkind words poured out of the phone and into my ear from someone I trusted. Someone I thought was safe and on my side berated me with bitter words for what they perceived to be my horrible actions of the night before. They scolded me for spending the night in a hotel. They railed that I would let a ‘stranger’ spend the night in Pedro’s room.

Each hurtful word pierced my heart. Mesmerized, all I could do was listen and pray for wisdom and the ability to not utter hateful words back. After what seemed like hours, I muttered an apology and promised that I would call my tormenter the next time I felt the need for a break or feared I suffered from caregiver burnout.

Broken and wilted once again, I entered Pedro’s room. Our family friend looked up and smiled. “I’m so glad I could come and that you got a good night’s sleep,” he said. “You need to take care of yourself so that you can take care of Pedro.”

I nodded numbly.

“May I pray with you before I leave?” he asked.

I nodded again and bowed my head. As our dear friend lifted Pedro and I up in prayer, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit draw close and pick the broken shards from my wounded heart. 

How to Handle Caregiver Burnout (if You’re the Caregiver)

In retrospect, I know I should have done many things differently to avoid caregiver burnout.8 Tips for Handling #Caregiver #Burnout http://wp.me/p2UZoK-1Cb

  1. Take time each day to relax. This might look different for each of you. A brisk walk in nature, writing in a journal, praying, listening to uplifting music, or recording beauty with a cell phone camera might provide an oasis of relaxation.
  2. Make healthy food choices. Overeating will only make you feel more discouraged and burnt out. Eating well is a form of self-care.
  3. Learn to hang up politely. I should have interrupted the phone call with a polite, “May we talk about this later?” If the caller had answered no, I should have said, “I’m sorry you feel this way. I’d be happy to talk to you about this later.” and then just hang up.
  4. Remember it’s not about you. That other person was experiencing thier own form of trauma because of Pedro’s illness. Althought the catalog of woes focued on me and all I had supposedly done wrong, in retrospect, I think the caller was really pouring out their worries and grief.

How to Handle Caregiver Burnout (if You Know a Caregiver)

  1.  Watch for signs of burnout: memory loss, inability to make decisions, irritibility, changed behavior, depression, and withdrawal from normal activities.
  2. Remember your sphere of influence. Take action based on your relationship to the caregiver. Sometimes, it’s easier to hear the hard questions from a friend and not a family member. My family members thought I was fine (mostly because I kept assuring them that I was). It took a family friend to understand the depth of my caregiver burnout.
  3. Ask. What can you do to ease the burden. Ask the caregiver what one thing they would really like to do and then help them make it so. When others ask, it relieves the fear that caregivers have that they exist in isolation.
  4. Remember it’s not about you. Don’t feel rejected if the caregiver doesn’t accept your offer of help. You might not be the person God has in mind to serve. Don’t burden caregivers with your opinions on the job they are doing. Think twice (or three or four times) before speaking critically.

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

 Loading InLinkz ...

Freedom of Choice in Everything

we always have the power to choose

Freedom of Choice: It’s what my son advised me to write about today.

My son, the leukemia survivor who watches my writing from the sidelines, knowing it’s about him and keeping out of it in ways only a sixteen-year-old can do. He’s given me permission to write about him, and, as he doesn’t remember much about the roughest parts of his journey through chemo, he sometimes reads my writing and often doesn’t.  He grants permission, but stays detached.

Even on the way to hated chemotherapy treatments, Andrew chose to smile and be happy. It’s those moments when we’re reminded we have freedom of choice.

There are distinctive memories Andrew carries with him, and those are often regarding the ways in which he lost control.  He remembers that medicine doses were non-negotiable.  We were blessed to be based out of Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, and they were absolutely wonderful with Andrew.  They gave him every chance to choose, when he could have a choice.  Songs to hear, videos to watch, color of the food tray, where (but never when) to poke the needle (this arm, or that arm), what he wanted to order for supper, if he wanted to snack – all of these things were left up to Andrew.  Downing his medicine, in whatever manner the doctor prescribed, was not optional.

I remember the only time a nurse entered Andrew’s room with a cheery, “Are we ready to take the medicine?” and I watched the nurse’s face as she finished her question and realized the error of her ways.

(more…)

Steal Away with Me

Enter My Presence and Refresh Your Spirit

Steal Away with Me – I will take care of you

Steal away with Me.

Escape the chains of responsibility

Eschew the ropes of judgement and scorn

Discard the tethers of others’ expectations

And sit awhile with Me.

Steal away with Me.

Let the laundry lie in its limp endless loads

Seek a crack in the cacophony of caregiving

Allow the worries of work to wander away

And relax a moment with Me.

Steal away with Me.

Life is not as I designed it:

Filled with wonder and beauty and love.

So let go of your unrealistic expectations

And trust yourself with Me.

Steal away with Me.

Let the breeze of My loving grace refresh you

Allow My peace to soak into your soul

Bask in the warmth of My wonder and love

And sit awhile with Me.

Steal away with Me – and I will give you peace

Steal Away with Me. Find grace in the presence of God #getaway #refeshyoursoul #inspirememonday Click To Tweet

What brings peace to your soul?

It seems we live in a crazy world.  Work, children, chores and even amazing church responsibilities all seek to divert our attention from the One who offers us the spirit of peace, love and grace.  This weekend, I hungered for that and found solace and grace at the beach.  Often I find serenity in a sunset, a waterfall or the earnest face of a student.  But I confess to days when I forget to even look for what our gracious Father offers us:  to cast our cares on Him, to rely on His direction and to remember that His plans are eternal.

How do you refresh your spirit?

I’d love to hear your comments below!

 

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

 Loading InLinkz ...

Help Me Raise Money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s TNT!

Seeking Sponsors for not just a Walk-a-thon, but a Marathon

TNTThe Back Story

If you’re new to Blessed (but Stressed), you might not know much about our cancer journey. You probably see the occasional photos of Pedro looking healthy and don’t know at at one time he looked like an extra for Shindler’s List. If you don’t know about those years, here are some photos from our journey. You can find more stories about our journey here and hereTNT

Ever since Pedro’s stem-cell transplant at the University of California San Francisco’s Parnassus Campus hospital on January 3, 2003, Pedro has continued to heal and experience a whole new set of firsts that he never thought he would be blessed with.

TNT Collage

I’ve Joined the Team!

And ever since Pedro’s transplant, I’ve wanted to do something to honor his journey and help others who suffer from blood cancers. Now that our nest is empty, I have the time to dedicate to training for a long-distance race. I chose to join the the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team in Training (TNT) program.

So I’ve done it! I’ve registered for the San Diego Rock-N-Roll Marathon (yes, you read that correctly! This old lady thinks she can run for 26.2 miles) on June 4, 2017. By participating as a member of TNT, I am raising funds to help find cures and ensure access to treatments for blood cancer patients.

Think of it as an old-fashioned school walk-a-thon fundraiser—only I plan on running, not walking. I’d like to raise $1200 (or more!). I survived a half-marathon on Sunday, and I know I’ll be able to keep working towards a full marathon.

Your donation will help fund treatments that save lives every day; like immunotherapies that use a person’s own immune system to kill cancer. You may not know it, but every single donation helps save a life with breakthrough therapies such as these.

Please make a tax-deductible donation in support of my efforts with Team In Training and help get us all closer to a world without blood cancers.

 

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

 Loading InLinkz ...

Hearts of Love on Valentine’s Day

In a turbulent world, let's share love

On this Valentine’s Day, let’s love not just in word, but in deed.

It’s almost Valentine’s Day and that means hearts and chocolates, lace and roses, confessions of love and statements of commitment.  Our society, here in the United States, seems to be undergoing a fierce shaking apart.  Those who profess love protest in the streets.  The ones hurting the deepest feel the most alone while the loudest voices shake in anger.

And we serve a God who says, “Love one another.”

That’s what He asks.  What are we going to do?

This week at my school (I teach grades 7-10) we’re collecting Pennies for Patients.  At our youth group we collected toiletries for people without homes.  On my Facebook feed I see dear friends who’ve lost a parent and/or I see pleas for help for new cancer diagnoses, large bills for treatment or prayers for comfort as a loved one goes on hospice care.  I listen to or read prayer requests of broken homes, messed up families, drug abuse and pain.

Meanwhile the streets are filled with people yelling about love.

I don’t want to hear any more yelling.  Not that they’re wrong, just that yelling doesn’t solve it.  And I’m a retired caregiver, a teacher, a wife and a mom who is tired of noise.

I want to see hearts and chocolates, lace and roses, and I want to hear confessions of love and commitment.  I want our country to stop yelling and protesting and start loving.  God says it, and He says things for a reason.

Love is the only way the world heals.

So for those who come across this post, or your own conscience that tells us to actually DO something in love, let’s make this Valentine’s day something powerful.  Let’s fill our world with LOVE.

Make this Valentine's day something powerful #loveoutloud #Valentine'sDay Click To Tweet

I have, of course, some things near and dear to my heart, and I’ll post some links in case you’re looking for ways to share your love today, in a tangible way.  But there are a million ways out there to show love and care – find your way and DO it!

Love List

  1.  Donate to the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society.  They support research in a big way.  I’m partial to this one because it was my son’s battle.
  2. St. Jude is a children’s research hospital.  There are many, this is one of the more famous.  The beauty of childhood cancer research is that they share, and are thus making more progress than many adult cancer research programs.  Also, St. Jude seeks treatment for every child, without billing parents (at least that’s what they advertise).
  3. Look for your local school district.  Almost any classroom teacher would love some new books or some additional items to help in his/her classroom.  How about volunteering to listen to a child read?  It’s not as easy now as it used to be, our laws mean strict vetting of volunteers, but it’s still possible.
  4. How about assisting in a homeless shelter near you?  Google finds you lots of places that could use help.  I know the one near us is thrilled to get packages of toiletries.
  5. Donate blood.  There is ALWAYS a need.  I can attest to the fact that sometimes even children have to wait for blood, or platelets (that’s the one we always had to wait for) in times of crisis.  Donate!

This is just a tiny list of ways to reach out a share your Valentine heart of love with someone this week.  I’m sure you have a list too.  In fact, if you have a link you’d like to leave in the comments, let’s spread the love!

God bless you as you share your heart this week.

Let's fill our world with LOVE #Valentine'sDay Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

 Loading InLinkz ...

Self-Care for Caregivers Involves Learning How to Breathe

breatheSelf-Care for Caregivers Involves Learning How to Breathe

To breathe or not to breathe, this is the question. I know, we all breathe, all the time; otherwise, we would be dead. But did you know that HOW we breathe plays a huge role in our health?

During Pedro’s cancer year, I forgot how to breathe. It took me several years after his stem-cell transplant to actually learn how to breathe again. Unfortunately, my health (both mental and physical) suffered greatly during my years of forgetting how to breathe.

Fear and pain cause shallow breathing—our bodies naturally respond to threats by changes in breathing patterns. The problem occurs when we find ourselves in a constant state of stress—which disrupts our normal breathing.

According to Alan Fogel, Ph.d., in an online article for Psychology Today, “Chronic breath holding and effortful breathing are not healthy because the muscular effort, coupled with the effects of stress on the nervous, hormonal, and immune systems, can impair both physical and psychological function.”

Caregivers can live in a constant state of fright, flight, or freeze. When I thought Pedro might die any given day, I struggled to assure our children that everything would be ok (regardless of the outcome). I struggled to assure myself that things would get better. Seeing a doctor walk out of Pedro’s room (or into it) at an unscheduled time sent my heart racing.

If I would have known more about the importance of the way that I breathed, I could have avoided a lot of pain and agony later on—when all those months of bad breathing turned into a bad habit that chiseled away at my health.

So, if you care for someone, the number one thing you can do for yourself involves learning how to breathe.

Four Steps to Healthy Breathing

1. Remember the numbers. Four-seven-eight. 4-7-8. Breathe in for four seconds. Hold it for seven seconds. Breathe out for eight seconds.Rescue breathing for #caregivers. http://wp.me/p2UZoK-1C3
2. Breathe in through your nose. If you feel like you suffer from chemo-brain by proxy, it probably means you suffer from stress. To regain your ability to remember things, breathe in through your nose when you want to remember something. Scientists recently discovered that breathing in through the nose enhances memory.
3. Breathe to fall asleep. If you struggle with insomnia, try the 4-7-8 breathing technique as you lie in bed at night.
4. Exercise hard on a regular basis. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular aerobic exercise can ward off viral illnesses, reduce your health risks, and keep excess pounds at bay.

Keeping pounds off is vital for caregivers because caregiving takes a big enough toll on our mental health without having to deal with weight gain. Aerobic exercise doesn’t mean you have to join an aerobic dance class (thank goodness—I have two left feet).

Simply engage your large muscle groups, make sure your heart rate increases, and your feel your body start breathing more deeply. I finally purchased a fitness tracker to keep me honest about my effort. You can do this by walking briskly, climbing flights of stairs, running, bicycling, or dancing like a crazy person in your living room.

What other ways have you discovered to relieve caregiver stress?

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

 Loading InLinkz ...

Extend a Helping Hand

Even when the situation is hard on you

Our family loves hiking in the Sequoias

The first one to lend a helping hand was not the most capable-looking one of the group.

She was, however, the most cheerful.  She pushed past the line leader and they both stood staring at the creek where my daughter, Karina, and I stood, taking a picture to commemorate our hike.  We were about three miles up a trail in the Sequoia wilderness and while the waterfalls cascaded peace into our souls, it appeared, from faces of this group, that peace had left them long ago.  They were coming down from the direction we were heading and as this group of four stood contemplating the log extending halfway across the snow run-off creek, I could see by the shaky ankles balancing on rocks that they’d been hiking awhile.

Miss Cheerful pushed ahead, balancing on a rock and a nervous smile she declared, “I’ll cross and then help you!”  She awkwardly crossed her Nike aerobic shoe over the other and slid onto the log, lunging forward toward the rock on the opposite bank.  Instead of continuing her forward move, she grabbed for a branch of a tree and tried to pull herself across, sending her weight backwards instead, as the tree bowed beneath her weight.  Her plunge into the icy water was met with gasps and shrieks from her friends as they surged forward to help.  Lady Two slid into the water as a futile gesture of help while the last two in line extended useless hands.

Teeth chattering, Miss Cheerful pulled herself up onto the rock before I could slide down toward her to help.  Lady Two desperately scrambled behind her to leave that icy wetness.

 “I’m okay, I’m okay,” chanted Miss Cheerful.

She immediately turned around and pulled Lady Two up the rock.  Ladies Three and Four followed quickly with pleasant coaching from the coldest, wettest and most uncomfortable Miss Cheerful, who also explained to us the beauty of their hike and the amazing trees they had seen.  As soon as everyone was on our side of the creek, another group rounded the bend.

I could see at a glance these ladies were with this first group.

All were dressed in Zumba class style leggings and tennis shoes that were more for fashion than hiking and all were adorable in cute hats and coordinating jackets.  Toward the back of the group walked one woman wearing a white sweatshirt and flowered leggings and suddenly, as she turned to talk with the lady behind her, the reason for this odd group out in the wilderness hit me.  BRIDE scrolled across her back – this was a bachelorette party.

Miss Cheerful muttered something  about “cold water and bathroom” to her group and sprinted up the trail as the lemmings proceeded down the opposite trail toward our creek.  Karina and I just held onto our puppy, who desperately wanted to play and jump.  We watched with fascination as more and more women poured down the mountain and gathered around the creek crossing.

“Watch out for that log!”

“Be careful, that water’s cold.”

“Don’t step on that rock it is slippery!”

Advice poured from our side of the creek as the bridal party attempted different methods of crossing.  Finally, a tall lady in hiking books and brilliant leggings bravely strode across the log and leaped gracefully up the rock.  Immediately behind her vaulted another fairly fit lady dressed for the weather.  Both giggled as they stationed themselves carefully on the rock and leaned back to extend a helping hand.  One by one the ladies crossed the creek. Some grumbled that they couldn’t do it.  Some muttered that the water was cold as their feet dipped in while sliding off rocks. Others shakily asserted that they were fine.

Interestingly, the ones who insisted they were fine were the ones sporting wet looking feet and shaking ankles, sweat-stained shirts and Zumba shoes.  As each crossed, words of encouragement and cheer rang from the two hikers stationed to help on the slippery rock.  The bride crossed without incident, and without a word.

The two hikers, waiting for the last of the party to descend the trail and cross the creek, grinned up at Karina and I.  “I know they’re talking behind my back and they’re never going to forgive me for the worst bachelorette party of their life,” said Brilliant-leggings out the side of her mouth.  She reached out a hand to the next creek-crosser.

Her voice switched to high cheer and encouragement, “You’ve got this! You are doing so amazingly well!”

Her hiking friend doubled over with laughter.  They both turned to look at the bridal party huddled together, waiting for the last one to make it.  Some didn’t look super happy.

“I forget that not everyone finds hiking to be enjoyable,” muted guffaws came from both hikers.  Karina and I chuckled along.

When crossing hard spots in life – extend a helping hand!

“It’s beautiful up here,” I offered, “maybe someday they’ll look back on this and think it’s a great memory.”

“I’m not so sure,” responded Brilliant-leggings.  She stretched out to help the last hiker, who immediately plunged her feet into the frigid water.  Gasps and scrambles followed until finally all were safe on our side of the creek.

“I don’t suppose you want a group picture,” I offered with a giggle.  I often offer this when hiking and watching groups try to take selfies to remember they’re conquering of tough trails and beautiful vistas.

Brilliant-leggings mock-glared at me and her companion chuckled, “I think we’ll pass on that for now, thanks!”  They turned and without missing a beat, began encouraging their group upward and onward to the trail-head.

Karina and I hiked a bit further and then the rain turned us back.  We enjoyed our hike but were happy to get in the car.  We ate our lunch out of the chill air and talked about the beauty of the hike.

I suspect that this group of non-hiking ladies will remember their six mile hike for a long time.

They’ll remember the big trees and the freezing water washing over their feet.  A couple will remember frigid water more places than their feet! They won’t forget the rugged trail and the huge boulders.  I imagine they’ll remember the bride and the beautiful wedding that was probably yesterday.  But I also hope they’ll remember what has stuck in my mind:

The ladies who extended a cheerful and helping hand.

The first lady to help was just as out-of-her-element as the rest, but chose a happy attitude that said, “We got this!”  The next were maybe the ones others were not happy with, but who were trying to be supportive and positive and encouraging in spite of realizing they’d blundered in their planning.  And others were those that were determined to be up-beat in spite of freezing toes and exhaustion.  Those that remembered to say thank you to those hands reaching across the stream and those that hollered encouragement to the next one across.

It’s easy, in this life, to get bogged down by the waters pulled at your feet or the freezing temperatures of discouragement or despair.  The journey, however, becomes so much easier when we lend a helping hand and aide others in their journey.

It’s easy, in this life, to get bogged down by the waters pulled at your feet or the freezing… Click To Tweet

 

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

 Loading InLinkz ...