Self Care

Self-Care for Caregivers

hands with hearts indicating self-care for caregivers


Being a caregiver is important, but caregivers often forget self-care.

  Being a caregiver can add value to life

To begin with, a care giver 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/

Healthcare, Self Care, Sharing, Unified Caring Association

Getting Better at What We Care About

getting better care about

Getting-Better-at-What-We-Care-About

There are many things as aspects of our lives that we care about: caring for our family, our performance at work, or even our physical fitness and health. But we can often find ourselves with little desire or in a struggle to improve. There are many ways we can strive to be better at what we care about. One of the best ways to begin a self-care or self-improvement journey is with mind, then follow with action.

Growth Mindset

Growth mindset is an idea where a person can adopt a practice where their most basic abilities can be continually developed through dedication and hard work. Brains and talents are just a starting point, continually learning and growing is the ‘maintenance’ so to speak. This perspective often fosters resilience and a love of learning which can lead to success. This means that the brain is always growing, building new neural pathways, more resilient, as well as getting stronger.

A Tale of Two Zones… 

In his TedTalk Eduardo Briceño breaks down how to get better at what we care about. He begins talking about two zones that we must go through to get better at one or more skills. The first phase, the learning zone is the desire for improvement and is where the growth mindset lies. To do this “… we do activities designed for improvement, concentrating on what we haven’t mastered yet, which means we have to expect to make mistakes, knowing that we will learn from them.” (https://www.ted.com/talks/eduardo_briceno_how_to_get_better_at_the_things_you_care_about)This is in contrast to the second zone called the performance zone. The performance zone is where we execute our task, exercise our skills, “…do something as best as we can…[and] concentrate on what we have already mastered and we try to minimize mistakes.” (https://www.ted.com/talks/eduardo_briceno_how_to_get_better_at_the_things_you_care_about) Briceño mentions that often those who are perceived as highly effect and successful deliberately set the intention to alternate between these two zones. The goal for getting better at what we care about is to be clear about what we want in each of these two zones: learning and growth followed by the maximum benefit and success during implementation. Rinse and repeat.

Seems simple, right? The struggle is that many of us don’t improve even if we work really hard. According to Briceño this is because most societies have the mindset that we must stay in the ‘performance zone.” We can see this in many companies where results are the way to be successful, or in classrooms where getting the ‘A’ or ‘100%’ is all that seems to matter. We seem to be missing the learning and experience of failure that makes it possible to get better at what we care about; “…this hinders our growth, and ironically, over the long term, also our performance.” (https://www.ted.com/talks/eduardo_briceno_how_to_get_better_at_the_things_you_care_about) The learning zone consists of what “…Dr. Anders Ericsson calls deliberate practice. This involves breaking down abilities into component skills, being clear about what subskill we’re working to improve, …giving full concentration to a high level of challenge outside our comfort zone, just beyond what we can currently do, using frequent feedback with repetition and adjustments, and ideally engaging the guidance of a skilled coach, because activities designed for improvement are domain-specific, and great teachers and coaches know what those activities are and can also give us expert feedback. It is this type of practice in the learning zone which leads to substantial improvement, not just time on task performing.” (https://www.ted.com/talks/eduardo_briceno_how_to_get_better_at_the_things_you_care_about)

Often we see a trend of our abilities plateauing during our first five years of an activity. This happens when we think and feel we have become ‘good enough’ and stop spending time in the first zone — the learning zone. We move on to the second zone — the performance zone — where we often remain. While in this second zone we are just doing to get things done as best as we can. If we are practicing mindfulness and taking notes (literally or mentally) we can then go back to the first zone and work on learning and strengthening in the areas that did not work out as well as we had hoped during the performance zone.

To set ourselves up for success we need to do four things according to Briceño: 1) adopt a growth mindset, 2) want to improve a specific skill, 3) have an idea or plan on how to improve said skill, and 4) “…we must be in a low-stakes situation, because if mistakes are to be expected, then the consequence of making them must not be catastrophic, or even very significant. “ (https://www.ted.com/talks/eduardo_briceno_how_to_get_better_at_the_things_you_care_about) If we are able to keep the stress and stakes low for a good amount of the time, we can develop an environment that allows for nurturing a growth mindset. A good take-away from the two zones and how they interact to help us get better at what we care about is to think about it like washing your hair: wash-rinse-repeat. (Click here to watch the full TedTalk video.)

Brain Chemistry 

Ok so we have a good idea about growth mindset and how to continue getting better at what we care about. But what is actually happening with the brain? The key is in how our brain has been evolving from the purely animalistic, instinctive and reactionary wiring that focuses mostly on survival even if our nobel goal is to emphasize the positive and intentional things today. How the brain remembers negative experiences is often through the body producing cortisol during a stressful event. (That T-Rex ate Bob, it was scary, and I remember that! I also remember my friend Bob. He was a cool dude.) “The bad feeling of cortisol has its own survival purpose. It alerts you to an obstacle on the path to meeting your needs so you can navigate your way to good feelings. But once you do that, your brain finds the next obstacle. You will feel bad a lot if you follow your survival brain wherever it leads.” (https://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2016/12/21/how-to-train-your-brain-to-go-positive-instead-of-negative/#66ccd9005a58) Fast forward to 2020 and we have a brain that is tuned into looking out for obstacles, and has become very skilled in remembering negative experiences.

It probably takes about three times repeating most positive experiences to make as deep of an impression in the mind as one negative experience. This is based on practices for building self-esteem and self-confidence such as through pep talks like repeating positive sayings to yourself multiple times while looking in the mirror. Doing this will ingrain a pathway and memory in the mind based on positivity, effectively training your brain to look for the positives and not the negatives. A suggestion is to “…spend one minute looking for positives, three times a day for forty five days…Any positives, no matter how small, will build the pathway that seeks and expects positives.” (https://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2016/12/21/how-to-train-your-brain-to-go-positive-instead-of-negative/#66ccd9005a58) This will create a healthy habit, and promote the development of a healthy brain.

…And Heart Happenings

Having healthy and learning minds helps us cultivate strong emotional bonds with others and ourselves. It feels good to be successful in endeavors we care about. Previous blogs we have written talk a lot about how positive feelings are good for our us, such as Caring Through the Gift of Time and Volunteering for Health. We see this when we achieve a goal — we and those who support us often are smiling.  We feel the positivity. When a positive outlook is adopted a higher frequency of success is achieved. This in turn creates a positive circuit the feeds itself, and generates more connections during our learning time. An example of this is the saying ‘you’re on fire!’ when someone is just having successful achievement after successful achievement. The excitement is palpable and the momentum is fast.

From what we have been reading and blogging about, this is the ongoing goal of a growth mindset. Most of the time we are happy when we are learning and growing. And one thing is for certain: change is inevitable. This means that it is important to continue to get better at what we care about.

Enjoy what you have been reading? Unified Caring Association has more blogs with caring UCA topics, 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!

Benefits, Caring Connections, Connecting, health care, Self Care, Unified Caring Association

Volunteering for Health

volunteering

Volunteer-health

Have you ever felt so good after helping someone else? If so you are not alone! There are so many ways to volunteer your time and skills to help others while giving yourself the gift of self-care. Unified Caring Association (UCA) gives more than three cheers for volunteers. 

Volunteering does more than we often think!

When we give our time and knowledge through volunteering we feel a ‘helper’s high’. This phrase was coined by Allen Luks. He defines this as “…the sense of euphoria that can be experienced soon after helping someone else.” (https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/why-volunteers-live-longer-science-of-kindness/?fbclid=IwAR0xw41uqf5GZK8oyRS6pKCLUzkZgliOe0GTFf0qpNnlfaCOCaDEbnskURM) During this ‘high’ there are two phases. The strongest is the first phase. This phase is characterized by an uplifting and euphoric mood. This is followed by phase two where there is a longer lasting sense of calm. This is almost like taking three big, quick breaths for the mind! What is most interesting is that “..the greatest effect (the high) was observed in helping strangers.” (https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/why-volunteers-live-longer-science-of-kindness/?fbclid=IwAR0xw41uqf5GZK8oyRS6pKCLUzkZgliOe0GTFf0qpNnlfaCOCaDEbnskURM) As when we talk about meditation and or mindfulness activities we see a reduced risk in depression. We infer that the same positive effects happen during volunteering activities as those of meditation and or grounding yourself in nature.

How else can volunteering help us?

Along with creating a healthy, caring social network “…volunteerism was associated with a markedly lower risk of dying. Depending on the study, the decrease in death rates ranged between 20 to 60%.” (https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/why-volunteers-live-longer-science-of-kindness/?fbclid=IwAR0xw41uqf5GZK8oyRS6pKCLUzkZgliOe0GTFf0qpNnlfaCOCaDEbnskURM) This lower risk of dying can be linked to how those who volunteer take care of their own personal health. Often times those who volunteer make a larger effort to take care of their well-being. An example is regular preventive care visits to their doctor.

Sharing caring through connection

When we are volunteering we are likely exerting “…its positive health effects by connecting people to others and to an activity that they find meaningful. Achieving connection, purpose, and meaning is critical to attenuating stressors of life—particularly loneliness. Since stress is a major cause of disease, especially heart disease, the ability to quench the need for connection, purpose, and meaning can bring about beneficial and salutary changes for people. And when there is [a] purpose and we are connected to others, we take care of ourselves.” (https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/why-volunteers-live-longer-science-of-kindness/?fbclid=IwAR0xw41uqf5GZK8oyRS6pKCLUzkZgliOe0GTFf0qpNnlfaCOCaDEbnskURM)

When UCA held a recent scholarship contest. One of the questions asked was in regards to if there is one thing you would change in the world, what would it be? We are still moved by one response written. This was by TiAnna Olivas. She writes, “Volunteering not only has a positive impact on the people and organization, it reshapes the way you view life as well. Volunteering provides the opportunity to meet new people, gain new experiences, and make a productive influence on the world around you…I have gained so much from my personal experiences with volunteering. I volunteer with the local pantry and the people there are so kind and have taught me so much. Volunteering with them, I have witnessed how they live an abundant life, filled with making the people around them happy. I strive to be like them, being a light in this dark world. (https://www.unifiedcaring.org/tianna-olivas/)

Let us at UCA help you with ways to volunteer!

Unified Caring Association has suggested resources to begin, continue or expand volunteering. One resource is the National Volunteering Caregiving Alliance. Through this network members can connect to about 700 communities throughout the U.S. This network is to help provide volunteer caregivers by connecting community programs and organizations to those in need.

A second resource available for UCA members is access to The Corporation for National and Community Service. This organization plays a key role in supporting the culture of service in the U.S.A. It is here that you can find a volunteering opportunity. There are so many volunteer categories, the sky’s the limit! For example we could search for volunteer opportunities in food banks and soup kitchens, collecting clothing and items in need for the homeless, or spending time assisting the elderly.

Volunteering word cloud, heart concept

In short, volunteering is not only helpful to those you are spending time with, but helpful in our own self-care journey as well. Let’s give many cheers for those of us that spend time volunteering. Thank you for all you do!

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!

slow down improve
Connecting, Sharing, Unified Caring Association

Slow down to improve your perspective.

Slow down for a better view.

The world is a different place at a slower pace.
Are the distractions of our hectic world keeping you from connecting fully in the present moment? Slow down to improve your perspective and increase your calm. When we pause for reflection we see things we would have otherwise overlooked and allow ourselves time to process life in a healthier way. As we slow down opportunities increase because we are allowing time to ripen new opportunities and create greater clarity. Mindfulness requires that we slow down and engage our consciousness so that we may reach a state of greater self awareness. When we fail to slow down, we forfeit our ability to become mindful because our focus is on the next thing – not the task at hand. Breaking the tendency to rush through life can be difficult, but the return on our investments are great!

slow down improve
Slowing down can improve your life!

Taking time for introspection and personal review can allow us to see opportunities for self improvement. Self improvement can seem like a daunting task but help is out there! UCA provides self-assessment tools to help get you started. Self-assessments can help you identify any problem areas so you can make a focus your efforts to improve, feel healthier and enjoy a happier lifestyle.