Women’s Health

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!

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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 

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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.

“Share Your Wishes” for Advance Health Care in the New Year

This is one New Year’s resolution you must make and keep, without delay! 

Everyone over the age of 18 should plan ahead for their medical care, and consider who will speak for them if they can not speak for themselves. 

It’s not enough to have a signed Health Care Proxy form (in some states, this may be called a Power of Attorney for Health Care); many people sign the forms then misplace them, or never have the important conversations with loved ones that give guidance about values and preferences.

“Sharing Your Wishes” is a comprehensive approach that can walk you through four steps that will ensure that your loved ones understand your health care choices.  

The steps in this approach include:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/25422151@N04/4078233716/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Photo by Sicamp via Flickr

1. Think about what is important to you and how you want to receive care

2. Select a person to speak for you if you are unable to speak for yourself

3. Talk about your health care wishes

4. Put your choices in writing

The form itself is easy to complete and doesn’t require a notary or lawyer.  It can be difficult to talk about these issues, though, especially if you or a loved one is dealing with a chronic or serious illness. 

The Sharing Your Wishes website has easy-to-use materials and videos that fully explain each step and support you and your loved ones in having these important conversations. 

Many counties in Central and Western New York have local Sharing Your Wishes Coalitions where more materials and support can be found; their names and phone numbers are listed on the website. 

If you are outside the area, contact your local Bar Association or Area Agency on Aging for more information.

Please visit the Sharing Your Wishes website at www.sharingyourwishes.org for more information about this important topic today.  Make sure you and all the adults in your life have appointed a Health Care Agent, and have started to have these important conversations with your loved ones and with your health care providers. 

P.S. Don’t hesitate to consult with a counselor if you need more support; dealing with chronic or terminal illness is very stressful and you don’t have to deal with it alone.

Peace and Wellness to you and yours in the New Year!

Lisa Kendall is a licensed clinical social worker with a private practice in Ithaca, New York.  She is a trainer for the Tompkins County Sharing Your Wishes Coalition. 

Sharing Your Wishes is sponsored by the Community Health Foundation of Western & Central New York. 

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 »

When is a Crutch not a Crutch?

In our culture, we shrink from signs of weakness or disability, preferring to see ourselves and each other as strong and capable.

Often, the very tools that might keep us independent, such as a cane or walker, are refused because they seem to represent frailty.  In reality, these assistive devices can make walking safer and prevent falls, allowing the greatest possible independence!

I was thinking about how hard it is for many Elders to accept the need for a walker or cane, or even the use of a wheelchair for trips out and about, and how troubling it is that our society has such strong prejudices about the use of such devices.

Then I realized that I have held the same deep biases about self-care and doing the things I need to do to stay healthy and strong.

As a health care professional, I’ve learned the hard way that I have to practice what I preach about taking good care of my mind, body and spirit, or I won’t be able to care for my family, clients, and friends.

Photo by Nick J Webb via Flickr

  • Have you ever felt guilty about getting a massage, considering it a luxury rather than part of your stress management strategy?   
  • Do you take time to plan and enjoy healthy, nutritious meals?
  • Are you getting regular, enjoyable exercise?
  • Do you have hobbies outside of work or caregiving that delight and inspire you?

These things are not “crutches,” they are important tools to keep you healthy and strong and able to stay in service.  Give them the priority they (and you!) deserve, and schedule time for them in ink on your calendar.

We’ll continue to talk about this, because too many professional care partners and family caregivers are suffering from over-load and are vulnerable to stress-related illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and depression.

Please write me a comment (below) to let me know what you will do to take care of your SELF this week!

"It's Just Stress"

It’s time to look more deeply into the very real impact of prolonged or severe stress on our physical and emotional health. If you have been caring for an ill Elder or other loved one, you are especially vulnerable to caregiver stress, which studies show can lead to depression or make you more prone to a range of chronic illnesses such as heart disease or diabetes. Read the rest of this entry »

Mandalas for Elder Caregiver Stress?

by Felipe Venâncio via Flickr

A few years ago I was preparing for surgery, and a therapist colleague suggested I get some Mandala coloring books to color during my recovery.

Mandalas are circular designs, often associated with Hindu or Buddhist meditation, and the designs can be quite intricate.  Once I started looking, I realized that many cultures from around the world have beautiful circular designs connected with their spiritual practices.

I was especially drawn to the more complex designs, and found that I felt serene and my mind seemed to calm while I filled in the tiny spaces with colored pencils, and it was also an easy, no-mess project to set aside if I got tired.

Once back at my caregiver counseling job, I started suggesting the idea to family members who often struggled to find ways to relax during their stressful days.  Several were very intrigued with the idea and immediately recalled long-unused art supplies or neglected coloring books already on-hand.

If you are taking care of an older or ill loved one, or are just looking for a way to calm your mind in the midst of a hectic day, try coloring Mandalas.  You can find the books through your local bookseller, local arts & crafts store, or print some pages online for free at  http://www.coloringcastle.com/mandala_coloring_pages.html

Let me know if this works for you, too!

Young Lady or Wise Elder?

It seems like only yesterday that I had my first real job working with Elders and their families, and started learning the lessons that would lead me into a career that has become my passion. It’s hard to believe that time has passed so quickly, and that I’ve been on this road for almost thirty years, gathering knowledge and expertise in the field of aging and caregiving.

One of the first things I learned was to never “talk down” to an Elder by calling her “Dearie” or “Honey,” or to think of Elders as “cute.”

Imagine my reaction yesterday at a local bistro when the cashier referred to my silver-maned husband as “the young man” and to me as “the young lady!”

It was weird.

And insulting.

I’ve worked really hard for a very long time and taken some hard knocks along the way.  My first reaction was that I don’t want my experience and wisdom invalidated by a patronizing label.

My second reaction, the one that was sort of underneath the first and that I’m ashamed to admit, was my uncomfortable awareness that what the cashier saw before her was my own inexorable aging.

I truly think there is great beauty in the faces of the Elders I know. I love spending hours talking with them, looking them straight in the eye, and listening carefully to their stories.

I don’t know why I’m uncomfortable with what I see reflected in my own mirror; maybe I thought maturity would have a glow about it, a kind of softening that comes with wrinkles and graying hair. Maybe I’m just in that mid-life place where people tell me I look tired even when I’m not, and the mysterious beauty of true Elderhood is still to come.

Either way, I’m not a “young lady” anymore, no matter how you look at it!  I have chosen to embrace my own Aging and to celebrate the gifts that it brings, even as I gather the bumps and bruises, scars and wrinkles of life’s bittersweet journey. 

Above all, I will continue to work toward changing a culture that celebrates youth to the exclusion of Elderhood, and I will never call an Elder “young lady.”

Lisa Kendall is a clinical social worker specializing in gerontology, and is an Eden at Home Educator committed to changing the culture of care for Elders and their care partners.  You can learn more about Eden at Home and the Eden Alternative at www.edenalt.org.

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