"We can do what I can’t". "You are not alone". These are slogans from Twelve Step Recovery Programs and they are powerful because everyone in the community wants to help one another, which in turn helps themselves.
Community is vital and provides great healing, especially when the group shares a common ground.
I teach in the Northside Hospital Cancer Support Community and what strikes me most is the care and love of the entire community. I watch students want to help others and share their experience, strength and hope. The environment is upbeat and their focus is on enjoying life. It does not matter if they are a caregiver, in remission or have lost a loved one- they rally around each other. They do not try to fix, rather they listen and provide support if needed and always welcome a new person. They understand, because they have lived it.
Whether it is a Twelve Step Program or any kind of Support Community, it works because it is human nature to travel with others and to know we are not alone.
What a gift.
Lately I have spoken with many who are caring for a sick loved one or aging parent. There is one thing that they all have in common: They deeply care and love the one who is struggling.
We want to fix the situation or make them see how they can help themselves, with no avail. We wonder why they will not do what they need to do- we know if they did, they would feel some relief. We get frustrated, angry, depleted and sad and try again and again to get them to do what is needed.
The one thing we need to remember is that we are absolutely Powerless over the other person.
It is their life and their path and nothing we do or say will change them. The only thing we can do is to remember that we are powerless and once we know this, we can let go of what we want them to do, lighten up and meet them where they are at. Your shift in attitude will empower you and your relationships.
Let me know in the comments below how realizing you are powerlessness can help you.
When traveling by plane, one of the first instructions you are given is to put the oxygen mask on yourself first, before putting it on the person next to you needing help.
This is very true of caregiving. Our lives center around the patient and before long, we neglect our needs. We do not take time to eat properly, exercise and participate in the activities we used to enjoy. We grow frustrated, angry and depleted. We feel guilty for feeling this way when our loved one is suffering, which perpetuates the spiral.
We cannot give what we do not have.
It is vital to remember to take care of ourselves. Each day we need to take time to fill up which will help both you and your loved one. When we do, we are more centered, more efficient and have more stamina. We can fill up so we can give with the same love and compassion we show ourselves.
Let me know in the comments below how you might be able to take better care of yourself.
There are times that life circumstances are quite challenging and we experience the consequences of added stress: We become forgetful, drained and totally focused on the situation we are confronted with.
This is especially true for those taking care of elderly or ill parents or other family members.
During this time it is difficult to live a balanced, calm life. It is a choice to get back to centered living. Even when life gets overwhelming, there are simple things you can do to gain your equilibrium.
- Take some easy breaths into your belly.
- Make sure you eat nutritious food, even when you do not feel like it.
- Change the book you are reading to something funny and uplifting.
- Call a friend and just vent.
- Take off your shoes and feel your feet in the ground.
- Always keep a sense of humor.
These suggestions are easy, practical tools to help keep things in perspective. Remember, whatever is going on in life, there are times throughout the day that you can experience a calm center.
Give it a try and let me know what happened in the comments below. There might be something simple you have tried that was effective. If so, feel free to share it.
Can stress make you sick?
The Stay Healthy section in Parade magazine, October 2009, Dr. Ranit Mishori connects stress with:
- Wound Healing
- Risk of depression
- Common Cold
- Increased Symptoms of Chronic Illness
One reason stress is so harmful: When stressed, our body reacts with the Fight or Flight response, increasing adrenaline, which is needed when you are in danger, but living with increased adrenaline for daily stress will result in increased blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar.
Dr. Elissa Epel notes that ongoing stress will change the protein output of our DNA, affecting our very core.
When you have ongoing stress- the kind you face when you are experiencing marital problems, caring for a sick relative, financial, or work- influences your ability to function, weakening a person’s immune system, increasing susceptibility to illness and certain cancers associated with viruses.
The good news is there are various ways to cope with stress, outside of medications- exercise; calming techniques like meditation are ways to manage stress.
The article concludes with: Taking these routes to “chilling out” is well worth the effort.
Custom Calm practices get to the core of stress relief, rather than addressing the symptoms to manage stress. These practices do more than “chill out”, but rather teaching how to incorporate sustainable tools in your daily living, improving well-being.
The loss of my husband, both parents and other family members to cancer had repercussions that were both physical and emotional. I had continual back and neck pain and it was very difficult for me to deal with the losses emotionally.
What did Carol do to help herself?
I am grateful for what I receive from my classes with Ellen. I use the Adapted Yoga poses I learned from her in my daily life and they are very helpful in relieving my back pain brought on by travel. I am thankful that I now know how to take care of my body when it hurts. I am learning to be aware of my breathing which helps reduce my stress level. Since I began participating in classes with Ellen, my lower back feels better than ever before. My emotional and spiritual well-being has been greatly enhanced.
What can you learn from Carol's Experience?
Experiencing loss has both physical and emotional consequences. It is often easier to help ourselves emotionally first, by using techniques to relax the body, and then use practices to calm the mind. The Custom Calm techniques that Carol uses are easy for her to incorporate into her life and have improved her overall well-being tremendously.