helping hand for community
Caring, Caring Action, Unified Caring Association

Putting a Community into Caring Action

A simple social media post from a UCA member put a community into caring action that changed the lives of an entire family in need.

putting a community into caring action

Last December the member posted in one of her local Facebook mom groups to see if anyone knew of a local family in need of baby boy clothing. She had just cleaned out the closet of her nine-month-old and had a TON of baby boy clothes to donate. “Rather than just dropping it off at the local Salvation Army, I hoped to find a family I could help out and continue to help as my little boy grows up and we clear out his closet,” she said. Almost immediately she received a direct message from someone.

The Need that Propelled Action

Hi… i commented on your post i dont really feel comfortable putting our family business on fb so i thought I’d message you my daughter just had a little boy December 4th my 16 yr old was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma a form of bone cancer last month we are going through alot and really strapped tight on money we are actually being evicted due to not being able to pay our rent this month due to my husband taking off of work to be with our 4 other children while me and my daughter in the hospital doing chemo my oldest daughter and my grandson live with us we could really use and appreciate the things you are giving away it would mean the world to us

Initially, the UCA member didn’t know what to think. It all sounded like too many bad things happening to one family. She started communicating with the person who replied right-away and immediately felt a connection.  This family needed SO much help. She started gathering every baby item she had and posted on Facebook to try to get more help from the local mom community.

Rallying the Local Community

Note to Facebook Moms Group:
I need your help! I’m pulling together baby boy items for a local family in need. They have recently fallen into a VERY bad situation financially and have a newborn baby boy. He was born in December and is only 7lbs right now. I already donated ALL of my newborn clothing. Does anyone have any 0-6mo clothes they would be willing to donate? I could come pick them up from you! Also, he’s on Similac Pro Advance if anyone has any formula they’d like to donate. Any other baby items would be appreciated. They literally need everything. I have bottles, lots of clothes (all 6mo +) and an infant car seat covered.

There was an incredible outpouring of support. We were literally able to gather everything anyone could ever want or need for a baby (pack-n-plays, clothing, bottles, formula, diapers, toys, high-chair, car seats, etc.). Over the course of a week people dropped things off at the UCA member’s house (and her parent’s house too) so they all could make deliveries to the family.

In the meantime, she wanted to help this family even more and decided to start raising money to make sure they weren’t evicted. Unfortunately, everything the family in need had been telling her turned out to be an understatement. Their power was scheduled to be turned off the day before Christmas, most of them were sleeping on the floor. They didn’t have a kitchen table or chairs, or couch because they had been renting virtually all their furniture and could no longer make the payments.

An Outpouring from the Caring Community

She was able to secure beds, a couch, a kitchen table and chairs, a desk, a desk top computer, a laptop along with a ton of other necessities. It was truly amazing to see how much people were willing to help an unknown family.  She even convinced Lowe’s to donate and deliver a brand-new washer and dryer to this family.

Ultimately, the community ended up raising over $6,000 in less than a week.  They worked with the landlord and paid the family’s rent for both December and January.  They then called all utilities and got them current on all past due bills.  With the remaining money, gift cards were purchased as well as giving the mother cash to buy Christmas presents for their kids.

It was a remarkable example of a community that truly CARES.  In the end, the UCA member summed up her caring community best: “One social media post kick-started an expression of genuine love.  Now, more than ever, we need to continue to care for one another.  Even those we don’t know.”

We all can easily take a moment to be kind to others, to help when a need shows itself to us, and give to others with urgent needs. Beyond that moment of caring action, our communities desperately need Caring Ambassadors to catalyze a caring movement needed more than ever.

Share Your Caring Story

As the majority of us have had our daily lives altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we invite you to share your personal story. Have you discovered silver-linings in your life or around you? Has something funny inspired you to carry on? Have you learned something great about yourself, family or community that you would not otherwise have discovered? We’d love to hear from you – we encourage the idea of a Caring Community through the tradition of story-telling. As we go through this epic event, it is the perfect time to share experiences that reinforce resilience, demonstrate creative coping and lighten our hearts with humor. After all, sharing IS caring.

Would you like to read more about UCA caring resources? We have other blogs on Unified Caring Association, caring in our communities, and caring the UCA way!

Health, Self-Care

Returning To The Senses

It’s said that the average human being experiences anywhere between 50,000 – 80,000 thoughts per day. With so much mental stimulus filtering through our minds every hour by the thousands, it’s advantageous to our overall well-being to manage some of this excess noise. Returning to the senses, our body’s five senses, helps manage through the noise.

Observe Your Body’s Senses

With Covid-19 currently in the picture, the majority of us are spending a lot more time at home. This global event has also opened up an ongoing stream of new information that may be contributing to the overactive mind. As countless people have lost their routines, and their sense of contact with other human beings, we can leverage this as an opportunity to begin observing our own relationship with our senses.

The simplest and most effective way to manage the overactive thinking mind is by returning to the senses. We all know of the five senses – there is sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch.

When we are stuck in the mind, it is often an indication that we are disconnected from what’s happening in the body. It’s in these moments that it’s useful to remember that the clearest path out of the mind is back into the body.

This matters because the state of our health is deeply rooted in how we are engaging with our senses. Overthinking is affiliated with numerous physical and psychological symptoms, and conditions. From headaches, depression, anxiety, stomach issues, and more, there is a direct link between the activities of the mind and those of the body.

This all being said, the environments we spend the most time in contribute to how we feel. While the majority of people today are staying home, it’s a good opportunity to start taking inventory of our sensory experiences.

Returning to your senses

SOUND

Start by considering what kind of sounds you welcome into your space. What ambient sounds are most often lingering in the background? Is the television broadcasting news for most of the day? Can you hear any sounds of nature? The sounds that we allow to project in and around our bodies and homes are not benign. They have impact and ultimately give us energy, or take energy from us. The practice here is to be mindful of the quality of sounds we welcome into our space.

SIGHT

Another practice to evoke the senses is by noticing what is directly in sight. Often much of our lingering anxiety and over stimulation is due to excess screen time, use of bright lights at night, and simply being surrounded around too much stuff. Micro-actions such as minimizing artificial light with candles, organizing our homes, and creating boundaries with technology offers our sense of sight more harmony.

TOUCH

Human contact and our touch sense is also essential to our well-being. This is because our body’s chemistry receives bountiful reward through these kinds of interactions. While physical touch in the days of COVID-19 have shifted momentarily, we still have access to the medicine of touch with loved ones we are cohabitating with, with pets, and of course with ourselves. The skin is our largest organ system in the body, and simple acts of kindness towards it supports optimal function. If you don’t know where to start try massaging your favorite oil to the bottoms of your feet every night for 3 nights, and see if you notice a difference. The feet are gateways to all of our body systems, and a simple massage like this will relax the nervous system.

SMELL

Our sense of smell is also an effective way to influence how we feel on a moment to moment basis. This is because the chemistry of our brain literally changes with the information received from the aroma. Keeping this in mind, consider how you feel when you enter a room and smell fresh citrus, versus the smell of stale dust. We can design our moods and our attitudes with something as simple as adding freshness to the home.

TASTE

Lastly, we have our sense of taste. Although we have to eat for nourishment, we often forget that eating can be a vivid experience that connects us to our aliveness. In times of stress or anxiousness, many also have a tendency to turn to food for comfort – it’s in this way that food is a very emotional telltale subject. This being said, paying attention to how we eat is just as important to our health as what we eat. While many of us are accustomed to tuning out from the food in front of us, we can use eating as an opportunity to further explore with the senses. To do this, we must first slow down and create more space between each bite. Only then will we begin to better listen to the body’s messages. 

Now that we’ve traveled through our five senses, we invite you to put some of these considerations into practice. In a world where we exist so predominantly in our minds, let us return to the body by returning to the senses.

We are all being called to do extraordinary things for the collective caring of our families, communities and the world in response to the unique coronavirus pandemic. Whether home bound or providing critical services, everyone is stretched to adapt like never before.  All of us are in this together. Now more than ever, caring is what we need most. Caring for our self. Caring for others around us. Life is going to require new routines, resilience and compassion. We invite you to join us in creating a caring movement to respond to local needs.

Would you like to read more about UCA caring resources and products? We have other blogs on Unified Caring Association and our products, caring in our communities, and caring the UCA way!

By Melissa Aparicio, contributing author

sunlight for self-care
Health, Nature, Self-Care

Sunlight for Self-Care

It’s an understatement to say that the human body appreciates receiving a healthy dose of sunlight within the first few hours of the day. Sunlight for self-care is possible now that we’ve entered warmer months. Consider taking advantage of the abundance of sunlight by harnessing it as a form of personal care.

By simply offering your body a few minutes of sunlight in the morning, you are inviting a sequence of biological occurrences to unfold. This will ultimately result in more stabilized energy levels, steadier moods, deeper sleep, and stronger bones.

Lack of sunlight has been linked to a number of disorders including infertility, insomnia, anxiety, depression, among countless other conditions that yield poor health. Though it’s wise to be prudent about the amount of sun one is exposing themselves to, healthy doses of sunlight supports the production of Vitamin D, Serotonin, and Melatonin – thus becoming the foundation of our waking and sleeping lives.

How Sunlight Interacts with the Body

When sunlight penetrates into our vision, the information of the light travels through the optic nerve all the way into the brain, and throughout its numerous glands. It is here where the pituitary gland takes the information from the sunlight and begins to produce Serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with states of wakefulness and joy.

When sunlight touches our skin, the body begins to generate a supply of Vitamin D – this is essential for calcium absorption, bone growth, and maintaining Serotonin supplies. Without proper Vitamin D levels, the body becomes ill-equipped to collect the sunlight’s information to convert into Serotonin. This can mean bad news for emotional health. As the lack of sunlight is directly linked to feelings of hopelessness, depression, and a general lackluster for life. There is also a wealth of clinical research linking the proportion of sunlight to cases of suicide.

From a biological standpoint, healthy Serotonin production is important because it’s the precursor to the production of Melatonin – the hormone responsible for nourishing sleep. While natural sunlight stimulates Serotonin, the darkness of night stimulates Melatonin. As the sun begins to rise again, the brain gives orders to halt Melatonin production, and so continues this very synergistic process that is completely commanded by the body’s perception of light.

It’s for this reason that keeping artificial light to a minimum after sunset is important to ensure the body has a chance to generate sufficient sleep hormone. It’s also relevant to note that sunlight filtered through windows does not count as a natural sunlight. This is because the technology in windows blocks UV light from coming in, meaning it’s no longer full spectrum light and behaves differently in the body than direct sunlight would. True unadulterated sunlight is what stimulates these supportive biological responses.

Trust Sunlight for Self-Care

Though there’s a lot of reluctance to trust the sun these days, the evidence in its favor is staggering. From treating physical ailments to addressing emotional well-being, studies are pointing towards sunlight as a supplementary solution. Ample research has indicated that anywhere between 5-15 minutes of sunlight a few days a week is all that’s needed for noticeable improvement.

Ultimately, our goal here is to create an environment that supports wakefulness during the day, and effective downtime at night. With the influx of sleeping problems, mid-day exhaustion, and disruptions to physical health, we have little to lose by turning to the sunlight for self-care and support. Especially when considering that sunlight is a completely free resource, available to all.

We are all being called to do extraordinary things for the collective caring of our families, communities and the world in response to the unique coronavirus pandemic. Whether home bound or providing critical services, everyone is stretched to adapt like never before.  All of us are in this together. Now more than ever, caring is what we need most. Caring for our self. Caring for others around us. Life is going to require new routines, resilience and compassion. We invite you to join us in creating a caring movement to respond to local needs.

Would you like to read more about UCA caring resources? We have other blogs on Unified Caring Association, caring in our communities, and caring the UCA way!

Article by Melissa Aparicio, contributing author

Deep Breathing
Health, Self-Care

Deep Breathing for Self-Care

The greatest personal health tools we have access to today are completely free, and as obvious as the breath. Though the breath is a function that literally keeps us alive, we so often move through the day tuned-out from its behavior. Choosing to become more aware of how we are breathing from one moment to the next is a simple, and effective form of self-care. 

The human body is designed to breathe with fullness. We are equipped with a dome-shaped diaphragm that stretches down to the naval, and is intended to be filled with life giving air – filling this space is what it means to breathe with fullness. 

There are many factors that contribute to breathing against our inherent design – stress, lifestyle, and chronic worrying being at the forefront. Even the thoughts that occur inside the privacy of the mind generate stress responses in the body. It’s during these moments of stress, our breath has a tendency to go shallow. Meaning that instead of breathing into our diaphragm, we unconsciously breathe into the throat and upper chest. This is very stressful to the nervous system, and thus compromising to all other body systems. 

By taking in full breaths, we create an opportunity to invite more oxygen into the body. This in itself is incredibly supportive to our energy levels, our cognition, and longevity. Extensive research also credits deep breathing for boosting immunity, helping to manage pain, and improve circulation. 

Beyond physicality, deep breathing helps regulate our moods and responsiveness. This is because taking full diaphragmatic breaths sends out instructions to the brain to release endorphins, our naturally occurring “feel-good” chemicals. From here, the nervous system is able to operate more fluidly by creating a chemical response in the entire body that ultimately feels like more spaciousness, and less reactivity. 

The next time you find yourself feeling anxious or stressed, take a moment to evaluate how you are breathing. Stress is most often accompanied by shallow breathing, so by catching ourselves in its grasp we can utilize the most readily available tool we have – the breath – to course correct, and self-soothe. 

Here is a simple breath exercise that you can take with you anywhere: 

  • Place one hand over your navel, and take a deep breath in that expands your belly outward. 
  • As you exhale slowly, pull your navel towards your spine.
  • Try to make the exhale slightly longer than the inhale. 
  • Repeat this for 5-10 rounds, and note how this feels in your body.

You can practice this exercise while driving, while you wait in line at the store, or even while watching television. The convenient thing about the breath is that it follows us everywhere, making it a feasible, and wildly accessible tool to practice with.

We are all being called to do extraordinary things for the collective caring of our families, communities and the world in response to the unique coronavirus pandemic. Whether home bound or providing critical services, everyone is stretched to adapt like never before.  All of us are in this together. Now more than ever, caring is what we need most. Caring for our self. Caring for others around us. Life is going to require new routines, resilience and compassion. We invite you to join us in creating a caring movement to respond to local needs.

Would you like to read more about UCA caring resources? We have other blogs on Unified Caring Association, caring in our communities, and caring the UCA way! If you would like caring messages throughout the week, follow us on Pinterest, YouTube, and Twitter!

Article by Melissa Aparicio, contributing author

Caring, Health, Self-Care

Self-Care for Caregivers

hands with hearts indicating self-care for caregivers


Caregivers are so important, but they often forget self-care.

Being a caregiver can add value to life.

To begin with, caregivers knowing that they are providing the care they know their family member or patient needs can bring great joy and value. But beyond this, caregivers also provide a benefit to society at large, in a very practical way. Caregivers save the government and society from a significant financial concern, translating into millions of dollars (Brickell, et. al, 2019).  From the micro to the macro, caregivers are an integral part of the caring community tapestry of society.

But who takes care of the caregivers?

Let’s be honest. Most times, no one. The caregiver is tasked with caring for themselves while taking care of others. This can be a challenge, especially when the toll can be so emotional, whether on a personal or professional level.

Someone who finds themselves in the role of caregiver, whether personal or professional should not disregard the importance of self-care. 

The definitions for self-care are varied, and guidance can help someone decide which route to self-care is appropriate for them. We at Unified Caring Association want to be wayshowers on your journey towards a good self-care regimen.  Go here: https://unifiedcaringassociationreviews.com/?s=self-care to find articles on this topic to help you begin a self-care journey.   

Studies have shown that self-care for professionals can range from self-awareness and mindfulness, to understanding the delicate balance of one’s own needs and the needs of others (Shapiro, Brown, & Biegel, 2007). 

And surely, these approaches can be applied to personal situations as well. Let’s talk about these ideas. Let’s explore what it means to be a caregiver and take care of yourself in the face of the huge responsibility of caring for another.  

What is self-awareness and mindfulness?

Bringing the light of our consciousness to our thoughts and feelings is by itself, a transformative power

  Namely, Oxford’s dictionary defines self-awareness as “conscious knowledge of one’s own character and feelings” (Lexico, 2019). In short, this type of mindfulness can feel just like telling yourself that you matter.  For example, every moment you take the time to pay attention to how you’re feeling or what you are thinking about is a conscious choice to say “I matter,” instead of putting yourself and your feelings on the back burner.

The thoughts and feelings you are experiencing can sometimes be overwhelming. 

In particular, it is important to allow yourself to experience your thoughts and feelings without judging yourself. Generally, practice self-compassion. You can hear more about self-compassion and what it means to nurture your heart, by listening to Tara Brach’s talk https://www.tarabrach.com/judgment-self-compassion/.

When you pay attention to your feelings, what you need becomes consciously more important. 

The simple act of awareness becomes a self-correcting process.

Amazingly, this awareness and caring about your state of being will present remedies for what ails you in the moment.  Some days, the perfect medicine will be a walk in your neighborhood. Other days, it may be allowing yourself time to sit and watch a favorite movie (even when there are dishes to do!). Or perhaps, you may want to make time to pursue that hobby you have been thinking about for years. Then again, you may want to sign up for a class. 

Self-care is also asking for help when you need it.

Did you know that help from a therapist is just a phone call away? The NAMI helpline https://www.nami.org/find-support/nami-helpline is available. 

Maybe, you want to get out and do something good for the world.

  Nothing warms the heart like knowing you are making a difference.  Read more about volunteering here: https://www.unifiedcaring.org/?s=volunteering.  

What ever your self-care path looks like, we are here to assist and guide you. 

Please reach out to us here: https://www.unifiedcaring.org/contact-us/.  We want to hear your ideas about what self care looks like for you.

Would you like to know more about Unified Caring Association? Check out our blogs on UCA, Caring Action, and Caring the UCA Way! Would you like to keep up with UCA activities? Check us out on Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter for updates throughout the week!

References:

Brickell, t.A, French, L.M., Gartner, R.L., Driscoll, A. E., Write, M.M., Lippa, S.M. & LAnge, R. T. (2019) Factors related to perceived burden among caregivers of service members/veterans floowing TBI. Rehabilitation Psychology, 643 (3),  307-319

Lexico. (2019). Lexico, powered by Oxford. Retrieved from https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/self-awareness

Shapiro, S., Brown, K.B., & Biegel, G. (2007). Teaching self-care to caregivers: Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on the mental health of therapists in training. Training and Education in Professional Psychology 1(2), 105-115. doi:10.1037/1931-3918.1.2.105

Tara Brach, (2019). From judgement to self-compassion (retreat talk). Retrieved from https://www.tarabrach.com/judgment-self-compassion/