Posts Tagged ‘self-help’

Making a List of What’s Going Right

I started my gratitude practice as my mother was wading into dementia, as a way to stay connected, compassionate, and sane. The more I notice the good things, the happier I seem to be. I really resonated with this blog from my friend Karen Rowinsky and I wanted to share it with you.

 Making a List of What’s Going Right

From Guest Blogger Karen Rowinsky

Feeling overwhelmed?

Can’t catch a break?

Nothing seems to be going your way?

If you are having one of those days, weeks, or months, this tip is for you.

gloomyInstead of reciting to yourself, or others, the list of events that are stressing you out, try documenting the things that are going right.

Start with real things that are going right like:

  • Even though my head hurts, my feet don’t.
  • I don’t know where the mortgage payment will come from but at least no one in the family is sick.
  • My spouse is really getting on my nerves but at least I know he or she will be there in a pinch.
  • Stress at work is getting me down but it’s not raining and I can get outside for a breather.

Once you have gotten some “at leasts…..” on your list, then begin adding things that are positive or funny:

  • I have good friends.
  • My dog loves me.
  • I have food to eat today.
  • I’m having a good hair day.
  • No one has “unfriended” me on Facebook lately.

imagesI’m not making light of your troubles. I am suggesting a way that you can get some relief during a time that is challenging. Self care even for a few minutes is better than none.    #

Karen Rowinsky, LSCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker.

 Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

Trusting The Loss Of Your Identity

I met Mary O’Malley when I interviewed her for an article in Natural Awakenings Magazine. She inspired me then and she continues to inspire me. I am honored to share an abridged version of her post with you.

Trusting The Loss Of Your Identity

From Guest Blogger Mary O’Malley, author of What’s In the Way IS the Way

A friend of mine lost her husband about a year ago. She was his caretaker for many years, and before that, she cared for her ailing parents. She feels like she doesn’t know who she is anymore and is trying to figure out what she is supposed to be doing next. She feels like her identity has been taken away. I believe just the opposite is happening. Life has taken away the caretaker role so she can get to know who she really is.

butterflyI too have experienced what it is like to have the old identity ripped away. It feels like a butterfly whose wings are wet and cannot move. Often times our self-worth is tied to how much we accomplish or how much we can get done. When part of our identity is taken away from us, it is painful and scary. And our poor little mind goes crazy because it has always found a sense of safety through the illusion that it is in control. The mind is a tool for maneuvering through reality, but it is not reality.

I believe Life is preparing us for being birthed back into the vast spaciousness of who we truly are. But, it can be confusing and scary for the ego. As the Tibetan Lama Chögyam Trungpa Rinoche says, “If there were no confusion, there would be no wisdom. Chaos should be regarded as really good news.” When we lose a part of our old identify, there can be so much confusion and grief that it feels like death. But, actually something new is being born. Remember that, although birth is wonderful, it is not neat and pretty. A human birth has pee and poop and blood, and it is painful. So it is important to do our Lamaze breathing, whether we are birthing a child or Life is birthing us! We can resist this process, or we can recognize that Life knows what it is doing as it takes this away and that away.

The next time you feel challenged, try asking Life for help by saying, “Help me through this passage, and show me how to see what you are showing me so I can be healed to my core.”

To read the entire blog, visit:  http://www.maryomalley.com/2015/04/05/trusting-the-loss-of-your-identity-2/

To be further inspired by Mary and her work, visit: http://www.maryomalley.com/books/

 Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

Creative Splashes

Sometimes I am around many creative people and I soak up their energy and ideas. Other days, I work alone. On those solitary days, I use these quote to inspire and ignite my creative spirit.

creativity 1 “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”  ― Kurt Vonnegut

“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty. You want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.”    ― Osho

creativity 3“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”   ― Martha Graham

“The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.”  — Alan Alda

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.creativity 2

Three Reasons to Give Life Meaning by Giving Back

IMG_0491Even when she was traveling the globe, designing and creating family-oriented projects, such as children’s museums, farms and gardens, Vicki Stoecklin made time to volunteer. She’d work on projects in Thailand, Saudi Arabia, and China, but whenever she was home in Kansas City, Missouri, Vicki shared her time and talents with non-profit organizations including the Girl Scouts, the local food bank, a boy’s home and more.

When Vicki was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, her life radically changed; she had to give up her dynamic travel schedule and her demanding and rewarding career. But she never considered giving up her volunteer activities; in fact, she consciously began seeking more opportunities to give back to her community.

Many of her normal activities were no longer viable: she couldn’t drive, read or cook. Her normally stellar math skills were impaired. Suddenly, instead of having to make every minute count, she had nothing but time. Within these limitations, she had to reframe her life and find new activities that stimulated and engaged her.

IMG_0494As Vicki pondered what to do with her life, she thought of Sheffield Place, a local shelter for single moms and their children. These women were struggling and rarely had enough money for any personal extras. Vicki decided to make necklaces for the mothers in the shelter. She enjoyed buying the beads and learning to string them in an artistically pleasing way, creatively combining colors, sizes and patterns. She also crafted a special gift bag for each necklace, decorating each with brightly colored stickers. When Vicki delivered her creations, the women and the staff were so grateful and so pleased. Their gratitude gave Vicki a sense of completion and connection.

One day, riding home from an appointment, Vicki noticed a dog shelter.

The thought floated into her mind: Wouldn’t it be fun to make blankets for the dogs?”

So, she made small, cozy blankets for the animals in the shelter. She enjoyed picking out colorful flannel, sizing it, then cutting fringe around the edges, and tying two pieces of fringe into knots.

“Making these blankets was relaxing and therapeutic,” Vicki says. “The cutting and tying helped me maintain my fine motor skills and the easy nature of the project allowed other people to get involved.”

When friends saw the fabric lying across Vicki’s lap, they asked, “What are you making?” Vicki explained and soon her friends were sitting beside her, tying away.

“With my dementia, I have a hard time finishing a project, “Vicki says. “These art projects allow me to complete a craft and give me a sense of accomplishment. Plus, learning new skills stimulates my brain.”

For Vicki, being a productive person and making a contribution to society, rather than just sitting around, has given her a much-needed sense of creativity and purpose. She encourages others with a similar diagnosis to seek what brings them joy and open up to new ideas and activities.IMG_0506

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Finding ways to give back offers people a sense of purpose and a connection with others.  Seek projects that are:

Tangible, finite and easy to finish
Fun to do alone or with others
Aligned with an organization the care partner can relate to
Connected to non-profits that can communicate gratitude

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

Ten Tenets for Choosing Movies to Boost Memories and Moods

Cinema can fill in the empty spaces of your life and your loneliness .    Pedro Almodovar                                                              

images

Invite Connections Through Watching Films Together

Most of us who visit care facilities have witnessed the dreaded “people slumped over in front of the television” syndrome. Of course, you don’t want to park your beloved person in front of a screen. But watching an appropriate movie together can be a meaningful experience.

Movies can stir up positive memories and invite conversations, such as discussing a favorite actor, a memorable scene, the old movie theater just a streetcar ride from home, or a special date at the movies.

According to Alzheimer’s.net, a good movie experience can leave a person with Alzheimer’s in a better mood and more engaged with others. A film can also help bridge generations, giving grandparents, children, and grandchildren something to share.

When selecting a movie for viewing, chose a film that is:      watching movies

  • Fun and uplifting
  • Easy to understand in terms of plot and characters
  • Under two hours
  • Void of violence, illness and death
  • Appealing to the person who has Alzheimer’s

Choose a comfortable setting with minimal distractions so you can talk during the film, discussing any memories, ideas or questions that the film inspires.

Familiar musicals, such as The Wizard of Oz, Camelot, or Guys and Dolls, often resonate with people who have Alzheimer’s. Other favorite films might include  It’s A Wonderful Life and Singin’ In the Rain.

Comfort and Console Yourself with Cinema

Movies can also recharge your spirit, during times when you need a little relaxation and entertainment but you’re too tired to leave the house. My friend Karen Rowinsky, LSCSW, (http://www.overlandparkcounseling.com/) wrote about cinematherapy in a recent blog. She’s an expert on self-care and I wanted to share her suggestions with you.movie collage

Here are Karen’s ideas:

Need a laugh, a cathartic crying session, or some excitement in your life? Instead of selecting your next movie by analyzing Rotten Tomatoes, let your choice reflect the mood you desire.

Here are some ideas that may fit the bill:

  • Need to getaway from it all? Watch a film from another country.
  • Haven’t laughed in a while? Pick an actor or genre that always gets you going.
  • Want to release tension? Select a thriller with lots of suspense that will leave you spent.
  • Feeling wrapped up in your problems? Find a biographical movie with an inspiring story.
  • Desire some mental stimulation? Documentaries or films on a topic you know nothing about can help.

Most of us get stuck in a rut when it comes to movies. Services like Netflix divide their movies into genres and sub-genres. You can look for comedies but then narrow your choices down to dark comedies, slapstick, spoofs, romantic comedies, etc. Trade lists of favorite movies with friends. Better yet, start a film festival with your friends or family, using a theme, a decade, or genre to make your choices.imgres

Self-care can be as easy as a DVD and some popcorn.

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Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

 

Four Fabulous Ways to Lift Your Mood and Enhance Your Creativity

Breakthrough 1

Exhaustion. Lethargy. Too tired to think or create. These are some of the issues so many care partners deal with. We’ve been collecting five-minute breakthroughs, simple and easy ways to change your energy and boost your creative spirit.

What area some of your creative catalysts?

RAISE YOUR ARMS AND RAISE YOUR ENERGY

You’ve already had a latte and a cookie, and you’re still lethargic. Now is the time to get “up in arms.”

With your fingertips touching, hold your hands in front of your stomach. Without touching your torso, slowly raise your hands the length of your upper body, palms facing in. As your hands lift over the top of your head, straighten your arms, stretching them high above your head.

This simple kinesiological technique makes you more alert and helps you focus.

distractionGIVE IN TO DISTRACTION

“I didn’t know what was wrong with me,” says Dusty. “I finally sit down to organize Mom’s medications, then two minutes later, I get up and wander around.”

Guess what–you don’t have to “sit still until you finish your work.” Give in to your desire to leave your task. Distractions are part of the creative cycle. By doing something different, you give yourself space for new creative thoughts and new energy. After a five-minute break, you can return to your task, centered, focused, and ready to be productive, at least for a half hour or so.

STORY LINES

Remember when you were a kid and someone read you a story? You were instantly transported into another time and place.

You’ll provide your own emotional and creative transportation when you break a stuck spell by reading aloud. Pick a story or a poem that’s short and visual. Children’s stories are wonderful, for imagery, for sound, for getting to use “voices,” and for quick shots of deep truth. Read aloud to yourself or share with your care partner. Reading aloud changes your energy and frees you free from stagnation.

ABOUT FACE

imgres“Don’t make faces at your brother,” they used to scold. Little did they know you were just being creative!

Scrunch up your nose. Push your cheeks up. Jut out your jaw and open your mouth dentist-wide. Bare your teeth, then stick out your tongue. Make as many faces as you can. Playing with your face muscles also plays with your mind muscles. After a few minutes, you’ll be ready to “face” the world again.

 

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

Six Tips for Surviving the Holiday Season When a Loved One Has Dementia

t-dayNormally, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday, a time our family gathered together at my Kansas City home. But that November, my stomach clenched at the thought of our traditional Thursday evening meal.

My mother had Alzheimer’s and the holiday would be different.  I felt alone but of course I wasn’t: there were 15 million family/friend caregivers helping the five million Americans who have dementia.

I’d been through my initial storm of denial and grief. I felt I’d been coping well with Mom’s diagnosis, focusing on offering my father extra support and trying to flow with Mom’s now spotty memory and personality quirks. But a pre-season sadness invaded me in October and I found myself dreading the alleged festivities. How could we have our usual holiday dinner, take our after dinner walks, play Scrabble and Hearts and Charades without Mom’s participation?  How could we enjoy going to movies and plays when Mom was having trouble focusing and sitting still?  And how would Mom react to the situation: would she feel uncomfortable and out of place? Would Dad feel protective and anxious? And more important, what would we have for dessert! Mom was legendary for her chocolate and butterscotch brownies, date crumbs, and bourbon balls. No store-bought cookies would compare. brownies

As I stewed over the prospect of a depressing Thanksgiving weekend, I remembered the vows I had made: I had promised I would try to stay connected to Mom throughout her Alzheimer’s journey. And I had promised to see the gifts and blessings and fun in the experience.

So I began thinking: if the holiday is going to be different, why not concentrate on making it different in a creative and connective way? Here are some ideas I used to make the holiday work for me.

  • Acknowledge my feelings of loss and grief. I wrote them down and shared them with a few friends. Just expressing myself made me feel stronger.
  • List what I would miss most during the holiday season. My list included cooking with Mom, eating her brownies and rum balls. I asked my brother, who’s a terrific baker, to make some of our favorite sweets and I set up a place in the dining room where Mom could sit next to me while I chopped mushrooms and peeled potatoes.
  • Create an activity to give our holiday a new focus. We created a simple holiday scrapbook called, “The Little Kitchen that Could,” complete with a family photo shoot and a playful script.
  • Appreciate my blessings. We started our Thanksgiving meal by asking everyone to name one thing he or she was grateful for. I continued my gratitude practice throughout the holiday season, either alone or with others via telephone and social media.
  • Take extra good care of myself.  I treated yourself as I would a friend who’d suffered a deep loss.
  • Set up a lifeline. “I’m worried about melting down,” I told my friend. She urged me to call anytime for encouragement and reassurance.

These six steps helped me enjoy my holiday and appreciate my mom just as she was. Our holiday was “different” but it was also wonderful.

gratitude

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Q 4 U :   How have you adapted your holiday expectations?

Six Spiritual Practices For Living with a Diagnosis of Dementia

Normally, you can put my friend Vicki Stoecklin in any city and she will easily get her bearings. From Paris to Dubai to Marrakesh, Vicki is used to working in and making her way around foreign countries.

So, at age 58, when she started getting lost in her own city, she knew something was seriously wrong.

Vicki had been plagued with a series of chronic physical ailments and she figured she’d deal with whatever this new issue was.Image 1

But she was caught off when the neurologist said bluntly, “You have dementia.”

“What am I supposed to do?” Vicki said.

“Live your life,” he said.

Learning to Live with Dementia

Initially, ”living life” was a huge challenge. She had trouble remembering where she’d put things; her feelings were disoriented. She could no longer drive and or do simple math. Her vision played tricks on her: she saw black holes where there were none. And she felt isolated from her community and friends.

But Vicki had a wealth of inner strength and resources. When she told me about her spiritual practices, I was inspired and moved. Here are a few of the ideas she uses to center and care for herself.

Learning Self-Compassion

“I learned to have compassion for myself,” she says. “If I’m having a hard time concentrating on a book, I stop and do something comforting, instead of pushing myself.”

Using Family Treasures to Encourage Contemplation Image

Vicki enjoys contemplating her grandmother’s hand made quilt, which hangs on the wall of Vicki’s meditation room. “She probably had Alzheimer’s when she stitched those squares together,” Vicki says.

Inviting out the Inner Artist

Vicki uses crayons, watercolors, and colored pencils to explore her own artistic process.

“My depth and visual perception is off, so my work is abstract,” she says. “I also find it meditative to color labyrinths and mazes.”

Opening the Heart to Spiritual Texts

Vicki has a number of trusted books she calls upon.

One favorite is Peace in the Storm: Daily Meditations and Prayers for Those Affected with Chronic Illness.  

“This book has been a great support to me,” Vicki says. “It’s about finding your relationship with God during the challenges of ongoing illness.” Another book that spoke to Vicki was Proof Of Heaven by Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who writes about his near-death experience. She also frequently reads Psalms.

Praying With and For Others

Vicki has a small box that she puts little prayers in for her grandson and her daughter. She has become a chaplain at her church and often prays for others. She also finds comfort in using the 24-hour prayer service at Silent Unity

Documenting Her Life Story

She has created two memory books — one for her work and one for her life. “These books are also reminders of the many happy memories over my lifetime,” she says.

*****

Q 4 U 

What are some ways you incorporate spirituality into your life?

If you’d like to contact Vicki, you may email her at Vicki vickiwhllg@aol.com