Stress Management

The ABC’s of Well-Being

Seven Fast and Simple Strategies for

Finding Your Calm Center and Recovering Your Balance

 

We’ve known for a long time that caring for an ill family member can create prolonged or high levels of stress, creating greater risk for developing chronic illness. In this busy world, it’s important to notice when we feel stressed, and to quickly shift our minds and bodies to a calmer state, minimizing the impact of work and family stressors and reducing our vulnerability to illness.

Photo by W. J. Rusen

 

Join me at the Tompkins County Office for Aging in Ithaca, NY on Thursday, April 7th for a mini-workshop where we will explore seven super-quick and fun ways to tap into your internal calming system, enjoy greater peace of mind, and learn about free resources to support your well-being.

 

The workshop is free, but…     Please register to attend by calling the Office for the Aging: (607) 274-5492 or email dstoyell@tompkins-co.org

 

***

Lisa Kendall is a social worker and clinical gerontologist who specializes in aging and Elder care, living with chronic illness, and trauma recovery. Formerly Senior Consultant for Work and Family Services at Cornell University and now serving on the President’s Advisory Council for Work and Family Affairs, Lisa maintains a private counseling and consulting practice in Ithaca. She is an Educator and Mentor for The Eden Alternative™ and teaches the Fieldwork class for the Ithaca College Gerontology Institute. Lisa is a popular speaker at the local, state, and national level, and writes a blog on self-care for every member of the care partner team at www.lisakendallcounseling.com/blog

 

Making Peace with the Past

Please join me for this workshop!!

Making Peace with the Past:

The Impact of Emotional Trauma on Elder Well-Being

(and the Importance of Trauma-Informed Care!)

Wednesday, March 9

2:00-4:30 p.m.

The Ithaca College Gerontology Institute

at the Country Inn & Suites

1100 Danby Road (Route 96B), Ithaca, NY.

 

 

Early trauma is associated with increased incidence of chronic illness and depression in Elderhood, a time when Elders seek meaning in their lives and to resolve long-standing issues.

 

This session explores how person-directed, trauma-informed treatments can be used with Elders and care partners to integrate mind, body, and spirit, easing anxiety and depression and supporting The Eden Alternative Domains of Well-Being™.  Case studies will emphasize efficacy as well as explore mental health issues as they present in different care settings, and how to harness the unique gifts of this developmental stage.

 

Please Register here:

https://www.ithaca.edu/eventservices/eventservices/programpayments/gw/

and let your friends and colleagues know, too!!

***

Lisa Kendall is a social work psychotherapist and clinical gerontologist who has worked with Elders and care partners for over thirty years in home health care, adult day program, hospital, and nursing home settings. In her private therapy practice, she works with Elders, care partners, and others who live with chronic health and cognitive issues, and supports healing for survivors of trauma and loss.

Lisa is committed to using person-directed, trauma-informed therapies, including EMDR, and strength-based, person-directed approaches to maximize well-being for clients and their families. She also teaches the Fieldwork class for the Ithaca College Gerontology Institute, and serves on the Cornell University President’s Advisory Council on Work and Family Affairs.  

As an Educator and Mentor for The Eden Alternative, Lisa has a special interest in care of people living with dementia and in supporting well-being for the entire care partner team.

A Blush of Sadness

http://www.flickr.com/photos/alicepopkorn/

Photo by Alice Popkorn via Flickr

It’s been a busy day, in a busy stretch. With two cancellations for this evening, I have a rare moment of solitude in the house.  I can hear cars passing on the rain-wet street, and a mounting wind is quickly taking down the colorful autumn leaves and revealing grey-black tree skeletons, their crooked hands reaching for a darkening sky and the mysteries of All Hallows’ Eve.

As I sit for a bit, I am aware of a blush of sadness that crosses my heart.

What is it?

I try to trace the whisper of feeling back to its origin, and finding no obvious clue, I slowly scan a mental checklist and wait for another twinge:

  • Mourning the end of an extraordinary summer?
  • A streak of sugar from the hard butterscotch candy I just crunched down?
  • Weary from too-long days?
  • Full moon?
  • Concern for a loved one who is struggling right now?
  • Embarrassment about a missed deadline or missing document?
  • Untended grief?

It could be any of those things, I suppose.

It didn’t last long, but I noticed. I understood it to feel like sadness.

Then, rather than bury it or let it grow in crazy directions, like a sidewalk charcoal snake burning to its full height some hot Fourth of July, I investigate:

  • Where do I feel it?
  • How strong is it?
  • Where’d it come from?

I’ve experienced depression before, so I make a mental note to pay attention.

If I get sad and stay that way for more than a few days (my default nature is outrageously optimistic and upbeat), I pay even more attention, in case I need to be assessed for depression.

Humans feel stuff, like sadness, anger, disgust, jealousy, happiness, satisfaction, hunger, desire, and you-name-it.

Noticing helps us cope, as long as we balance that noticing with the proper degree of curiosity and nonchalance. That is, I don’t get freaked out by my fleeting thoughts or emotions.

Sometimes it’s just the candy.

***

Lisa Kendall writes about well-being and self-care for all members of the care partner team, and pays attention to thoughts, emotions, and feelings as a psychotherapist and clinical gerontologist in Ithaca, NY. 

Follow Lisa on Twitter @LisaKCounseling

Do Caregivers Ever Get a Snow Day?

There is a storm coming, and I can feel the pressure in my temples.

People have been calling or texting to cancel their appointments, and while there have already been numerous accidents on our local roads, the “real” storm is expected to build slowly today and hit us hard overnight and into tomorrow.

I think we’re hard-wired to seek shelter when the weather is bad. For some of us, that “low pressure headache” is both warning and encouragement to get back into the safety and security of our bed to wait out the danger, or at least to hit the sofa.

In the movies, a storm usually marks some kind of change. In real life, it can feel like a call to action. Gather milk and toilet paper! Check the generator! Mount those studded snow tires!

Once our most basic needs are assured, we may use the storm as an excuse to take a break from the everyday busy-ness of life. There is a different feel to the world when it is muffled by several inches of snow. Businesses close, messy roads discourage travel, and we can postpone the mundane.

A snow day isn’t just for school children; we can all decide to stay in our jammies and watch old movies on TCM.Ravens on the Field

When you care for someone who lives with chronic illness, dementia, or frailty, there are some tasks that will have to be done no matter the conditions. Barring true Apocalypse, we have to have food, manage getting to and from the bathroom, take medications, and consider bathing and other personal care.

Is it possible for a care partner to enjoy a snow day?

Sometimes a shift in how we think about the day can make space for us to focus more on the moment, and less on the many tasks that always seem to clutter our to-do list.

A snow day can mean pulling out a game you enjoy, putting on some music, and generally loafing where and when you can. A snow day can be for “being” more than “doing.”

It’s natural! Embrace the snow day by slowing down, making some hot chocolate, and spending time with the person you care for. Accept some care today, and enjoy the blanket of winter.

How do you make a “snow day” special for yourself and your loved ones? What rituals bring you comfort and help you slow down at this time of year? Please share your thoughts with our community, and stay safe and warm!

 

Holiday Caregiver Stress: Finding the Heart of the Season

http://www.flickr.com/photos/summerlovin/4171678797/

Photo by paulapaulac via Flickr

A lovely Elder I knew, (I’ll call her Mary), was really struggling with the care needs of her husband, who was living with a number of debilitating illnesses.  As the holidays approached, she became more and more anxious about how to manage the many tasks and roles she had already taken on, and wondered how to work Christmas into her “to do” list.

One of Mary’s traditions was to bake a special kind of cookie, one that took several hours and many steps.  That year, she just couldn’t face the chore.

When I asked her what the most meaningful part of this holiday tradition was for her, she didn’t hesitate to answer that it was spending time with her college-age grandsons.

Looking at this activity from the perspective of what was most meaningful, Mary quickly realized that the heart of the event was spending time with those growing young men.

She knew that they enjoyed being with her, too, and confided that her hungry family wolfed down the treats and probably never gave a second thought to the amount of time and preparation she’d invested in baking.

It was easier for this Wise Elder to change how she managed the task once she’d identified what was most important and meaningful.  That year, she chose a much simpler recipe, and enjoyed her special time with the grandsons.  Mary had freed up precious time and energy for the other things she really wanted or needed to do.

What is the heart of this holiday season for you?  If you are feeling overwhelmed, prune away the things that don’t bring you joy.  Consider changing the way you do things so you can enjoy the holidays feeling more at peace and well-rested.

The SIDS Foundation has created a nifty chart that an help you identify what and how to include in your Holiday celebrations, what things you can change, and what things you might choose to let go this year.  Try it out below.

As you work with this information, consider that important question: what is meaningful?

And let me know if you made any changes, and how it’s going for you!

Holiday Stress Assessment for Caregivers

HOLIDAY JOB LIST Would the holidays be the same without it?  Is this something you want to do differently?  Do you do it out of habit, tradition,free choice, or obligation? Is it a one person job, or can it be shared?  Who is responsible for seeing that it gets done?  Do you like doing it?  Decorating the tree.                    Contributing to special funds.                    Baking holiday cookies. Exchanging holiday cookies.                    Making long lists of what needs to be done.                    Going to office or school parties.                    Making homemade holiday gifts.                    Sending holiday cards.                    Buying something special to wear for the holidays.                    Going to cocktail parties.                    Doing your holiday shopping.                    Seeing people you never see any other time of the year.                    Helping or encouraging your children to make some of their gifts.                    Having the house clean … clean!                    Decorating different rooms of your home.                    Providing “quiet-together” time for immediate family.                    Buying gifts for co-workers and teachers.                    Attending special or traditional church services.                    Attending special activities for children.                    Preparing special traditional foods.                   

©1995-1996-1997-1998-1999, SIDS Network, Inc. < http://sids-network.org >

All rights reserved. Permission to use, copy, and distribute this document, in whole or in part, for non-commercial use and without fee, is hereby granted, provided that this copyright, permission notice, and appropriate credit to the SIDS Network, Inc. be included in all copies.

 

New Year’s Resolutions: Move from a “to DO” list to a “to BE” list.

Like many people at year’s end, I am both looking backward to reflect on all that has happened, and forward to the opportunities and blessings of a new year.

We often generate a list of resolutions for the fresh start we feel with the coming of a new year, but just as often leave our good intentions behind after a short burst of “self-improvement.”

http://www.flickr.com/photos/alicepopkorn/3059251051/

by AlicePopkorn via Flickr

This year, I’m trying a completely different strategy.

This year, I will strive every day to do two simple things to bring my past and future together into a single moment of BE-ing.

First, I will cultivate a practice of gratitude. I will start and end my day by meditating on the many blessings I have in my life. This will focus me on abundance rather than scarcity, and helps keep me humble.

Second, instead of a daily “to do” list, (I am a great list-maker!), I will take a moment each morning to jot down what and how I want “to BE.” This idea comes from Elyse Hope Killoran, whom I heard speak at a recent conference presented by Casey Truffo.

When Elyse suggested that I think about what good service to others feels like, the following words came to mind: grateful, joyful, abundant, light, happy, accomplished, and balanced.

By consciously choosing to BE these things, I make decisions and act from that place, and my vision for my professional practice and for my private life becomes a reality.

Elyse recommends that we change the traditional idea that if we DO certain things, or HAVE what we want, we will then BE the person we’ve always wanted to be.

She teaches that we BE first, then DO. Only then will you HAVE what you want and need.

Elyse says, “If we have a big enough why, the hows and wheres will take care of themselves.” I am reminded of Stephen Covey’s encouragement to work on BE-ing, to cultivate gratitude, to see the world as abundant, and to live a life according to personal principles. He develops all of these ideas in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.

Creating a “to BE” list might be one of the most powerful ways to start the New Year!

Will you try this practice and let me know how it works for you?

Don’t wait! You can have a refreshing ‘Retreat’ today!

Mrs. Jenson is a full-time care partner for her husband, who has had a severe stroke. 

It’s very hard work, but she has some help in the home, as well as wonderfully supportive family, and she is able to get out for church and social activities.  Every so often, she takes trips with her community group, and there is an annual family vacation, too. 

Because she has health problems of her own and sleeps poorly, her children and grand-children encourage Mrs. J. to take even more time for herself, to take off for a weekend or more to really recharge, but Mrs. J. feels she just doesn’t want to do that and is uncomfortable with the pressure from her well-intended loved ones.

Part of my job is to encourage family care partners to get enough rest, so I want to hear more.

Mrs. Jenson teaches me something important when, together, we think through how she sees balancing her own need for rest and respite with her engagement as a care partner for her husband.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/baronsquirrel/106337895/sizes/m/in/photostream/

photo by baronsquirrel via flickr

What we come up with is a kind of formula that is already mostly in place in the Jenson household.  It looks like this:

  • Every day, take a brief, but pleasurable, respite (10 minutes)
  • In every week, schedule an hour or two away (special lunch with a friend, quiet time at a museum, a walk, etc.)
  • Every month, take a full day for yourself
  • In every quarter (every three months), set aside a truly special weekend for rest and renewal
  • Annually, be sure to schedule a week for vacation!

These guidelines will look different for everyone, but could work in some way or other for all of us, whether we are caring for an ill loved one, trying to manage work/life balance, or manage our own stress and wellness.

The main point Mrs. Jenson wanted to get across to her children was that she didn’t need to leave her home or take a long stretch of time to feel refreshed. 

I think this is a common myth, and one that keeps us from taking advantage of everyday opportunities to find a “little calm center” in our otherwise too-busy world.

I will be facilitating a workshop on how to create a mini-retreat on Monday, July 18th at Lifelong in Ithaca; I hope you’ll join us to learn more and to share your own wisdom about this!

~~~ 

Finding Rest and Renewal:

How to Create a Mini-Retreat to Soothe Your Spirit, Ease Your Body, and Calm Your Mind

A Retreat has been defined as “an act or process of withdrawing, especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable;” or “a place of privacy or safety or refuge.”

Many of us know we need time away, but are unsure of where, how, or when to create effective Retreats.  In this hands-on workshop, participants will learn how to structure personal mini-Retreats that last from ten minutes to a full day, select meaningful activities, and comfortably transition out of the Retreat, taking powerful and lasting lessons into daily life.  Further resources for planning your Retreat are included.

This workshop is intended for both experienced and new retreatants, and is especially designed for those who are seeking better balance and well-being in their lives.

Register for (1823) Finding Rest and Renewal: How to Create a Mini-Retreat to Soothe… ($10 fee) at Lifelong

by clicking HERE or call Jillian Pendleton for more information at (607) 273-1511 

~~~

Are you a member of Lifelong??  Join today!!

www.tclifelong.org

~~~

Lisa Kendall has worked for over thirty years as a health and wellness educator and mental health counselor, and has led retreats for a variety of groups.  Lisa maintains a private therapy practice specializing in women’s health, aging & caregiving, chronic illness, stress, depression, work/life balance, and grief. 

A Celtic Formula for Healing

I remember reading once that the Ancient Celtic prescription for physical and emotional healing was “laughter, sorrow, and rest.”  (If you know where I heard this, please let me know and I’ll give proper attribution!)

This weekend I was reminded of this great advice when I had an opportunity to hear the Celtic band, “Cherish the Ladies,” at a small performing arts center near my home.

Joanie Madden’s Irish wit made me laugh all through the performance.

The ballads and the Irish whistle sounded so wistful, it touched a deep sadness in me and brought tears to my eyes.

The music and dancing, traditional as well as original, was the best I’ve heard or seen in a concert, and completely took me away from my daily cares.

Laughter.  Sorrow.  Rest.  It makes sense to me.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/alicepopkorn/

Photo by Alice Popkorn via Flickr

We know that laughter is great medicine anytime; numerous studies show that laughter decreases stress, improves social bonds, and boosts our immune systems. 

We rest if we’ve been ill, and when we’re going through a severe emotional trauma, we lose our energy and often take to our beds.  (One way to view depression is as a natural mechanism to keep the body at rest so it can heal from injury).

What might not seem so intuitive is the Celtic advice about Sorrow.  Aren’t we told to look on the bright side?  Use positive affirmations?  Get over it already???

Actually, denying our sorrow or holding in our feelings of sadness will only cause them to become “stuck” in our mind and body, and can lead to symptoms such as headaches, gastric upset, and muscle aches and pains. 

As we learn more about mind-body medicine and take a gentle, holistic approach to self-care, we can see that making space to express Sorrow is an important component of any healing regimen.

In the coming weeks we’ll be looking at some different techniques that support the expression of Sorrow and other emotions we often think of as “negative,” so we can make room for all that is good and find the balance and wellness that we seek. 

In the meantime, I would love to hear your comments about this bit of Celtic Wisdom. 

And be sure to Laugh when you can.  Cry when you need to.  Have a  l-o-n-g  nap.

And put on some great Celtic Music!

Lisa Kendall is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a special interest in supporting self-care.  In addition to her practice in Ithaca, NY, Lisa is a sought-after speaker, retreat leader, and an “Eden at Home” Educator committed to changing the culture of care for Elders and their care partners.

The Universe is Knocking…

Has a little voice been whispering to you about something?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/xanetia/3572318670/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Photo by Xanatia via Flickr

Maybe your cough hasn’t gone away, and you haven’t called your physician yet.  Or what about that loose railing on your porch? You think of getting out the toolkit every time you feel that wobble, but you just haven’t done it yet.

There is a little voice in each of us that will whisper hints and reminders of what needs to be set right to make our world a safer and more balanced place.  We usually know when we need to see a doctor for a cough, a strange-looking spot on our skin, or some other minor malady.  We know when we’re eating poorly, are in a toxic relationship or an unsafe environment.

We may call that voice many things: our higher Self, our better Angels, “the Universe,” or God.

When we don’t listen to that whisper, the Universe may have to raise her voice a little, just to get our attention.

If you trip on the porch, maybe you’ll finally fix the darned thing.  Your inner knowing is really pressing you to do something now!  If you don’t repair it, something more serious may happen.  How long will you wait to do what you know is right and necessary to prevent a catastrophe?

I’ve talked about this phenomenon with my friends and colleagues.  As humans, we do seem to get many hints about what we need to do to keep our lives in balance.  We often have competing agendas, however, and it’s easy for us to rationalize our way past the whispered hints and even the warning cries of the Universe!

Has the Universe been knocking on your door about something in your life that is out of balance?  Perhaps you are so overwhelmed that you feel the Universe has backed you into a corner!  Maybe the noise in your life is so loud you can no longer discern the direction you need to take to find your way home.

Listen to your inner knowing, your higher Self, the Universe.  If you need someone to support you in finding the way back to balance, contact a physician or mental health counselor, pastor or friend.

May 2011 be the year you begin to hear the whispers again, and live in harmony with the Universe.

 

Lisa Kendall is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice in Ithaca, NY

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A Radical Alternative to New Year’s Resolutions: for Caregivers & the Rest of Us!

You've seen the lists. Maybe you've made one yourself, or are thinking about it. Eat better... Exercise more... Organize the house... If you're anything like me, there is a strange mathematical formula that applies to efficiency in one's daily life. Here's how I think it works: Read the rest of this entry »
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