Saturday, October 20, 2018

Notes for Caregivers #5 - Caregiving Essentials

"A Story Within" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
I've started an educational endeavor with McMaster University. They are offering a free online course in Caregiving Essentials, teaching us to navigate with confidence issues like becoming a caregiver (including legal and financial information), how to deal with the health care system and get the supports we need, how to take care of ourselves so we can care for someone else and finally we will have access to health and medical information.

Our first task is to own the caregiver role in part by identifying our strengths. We can sometimes feel like we have been handed a difficult and thankless job. Does it take a special kind of person to take on this role? I tend to doubt that but clearly if we can harness our strengths we can reap the rewards that come with caregiving. I am learning that successful caregivers display many of these positive traits: patience, resilience, confidence and compassion. We need to keep ourselves from falling into a pit of despair by regularly identifying our strengths and drawing on them as much as we can while we are "giving care."

The course suggests we ask ourselves these questions to help us identify our strengths:

1. What gives you energy? Activities that draw on your strengths typically make you feel more energized (whereas activities that take you out of your comfort zone might make you feel drained).
I think being an art therapist has been great training for this life. Creative work and problem solving along with serious listening are things that make me feel more energized, skills that worked well in art therapy and now as a caregiver.

2. What are your best character traits? Think back to job reviews, compliments and your own self-reflections. What are you most proud of?
Same as above, although additionally I have been told I am patient. Not sure, but I think that one could use a bit of development.

3. What strengths do you bring to the table when faced with challenges or adversity? How do you overcome challenges?
As I learned from Kelly McGonigal I can use compassion and altruism to overcome challenges and adversity.

4. Now that you have a list of your strengths, how will you leverage them?
I suspect reminding myself to employ my strengths daily would be a very good start.


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Notes for Caregivers #4 - The Long Goodbye: Grief and Caregiver Stress

"Angels 2" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
The path of the caregiver is not an easy one. There's a helpful webinar on the topic of Grief and Caregiver Stress which can help. It explores the topic of sudden death with the emotional turmoil and loss that accompanies it, but the main focus is on the long goodbyes following years of coping with issues like dementia, complex medical illness, and cancer, that carry with them unique forms of grief and caregiver burden.  This webinar is presented by Dr. Carilyn Ellis, a psychology fellow at the Boise VA Medical Center, specializing in oncology, palliative care and primary care mental health integration. She completed her doctorate in clinical psychology at George Fox University in Newberg, OR. She has much to offer the caregiver in need of understanding, solace, and comfort.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Notes for Caregivers #3 - Create Courage and Resilience with Compassion and Altruism

"Most Magical" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
One of the most interesting and most difficult aspects of being a caregiver is that at some point you realize life has changed your identity whether you are ready for it or not. Stories for Caregivers has a wonderful short video on this particular challenge and why we may be reluctant to let go of our old identity.  If we aren't mindful about this change, we can find ourselves in difficulty, feeling a bit lost.

Kelly McGonigal has a hope filled, wonderful talk given at Stanford University, “How Compassion and Altruism Create Resilience.” She explores new research into how cultivating compassion and practicing altruism can increase our well-being during times of stress, as in suddenly finding ourselves in a new, perhaps uncomfortable identity. She talks about how we were able to survive and thrive as a species because during times of stress our "tend and befriend" response kicks in (Shelly Taylor's concept), that by reaching out to others and forming human connection, brain chemistry (oxytocin) comes to our assistance.

According to Taylor (2000), affiliative behaviors reduce stress responses, thereby reducing stress-related health threats. "Befriending" is shown to lead to mental and physical health benefits in times of stress, whereas social isolation is associated with significantly enhanced risk of mortality.  So social support is tied to positive health outcomes. (This is pretty key for caregivers to understand! And implement.) Kelly believes that we can encourage our positive brain chemistry and health benefits when we choose to have a social response to stress.

This talk may be the perfect answer for caregivers who is feeling overwhelmed, and stressed.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Notes For Caregivers #2 - Developing A Habit Of Caring

"Love" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

Here is an interesting short video from Stories For Caregivers on the importance of caring and connection. Very sweet.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Notes For Caregivers #1

"Care For Ourselves" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
I'd like to add something new to the blog, posts that are specifically for caregivers.  Whether we are art therapists, caring for our patients/clients/artists, or if we are caring for someone at home, my observation is that self care is extremely important. So I will be posting some really helpful ideas, web sites, or videos that have come my way. There is a Canadian web site, Stories For Caregivers, that feels like a life line. I started with Dr. Yvette Lu who has some great ideas to help caregivers find practical solutions to improve their lives.  Ever wondered about flotation therapy? Dr. Lu has an answer.

The website also has a list of resources for caregivers in Canada which led me to a list of resources for caregivers in Ontario. Very helpful.

For those in the US, AARP has a helpful website.

Friday, July 27, 2018

#192 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life; Creating Art With Joy

"Joyous" collage with Pandia by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

This one comes from a delightful 13 minute TedTalk by Ingrid Fetell Lee on Where Joy Hides and How to Find It.  She describes an experience from her Design class where she became curious about the connection between joy and tangible objects. She began to ask people what brings them joy, the Nancy Drew of Joy. She discovered bubbles, tree houses, balloons, ice cream cones, and rainbows are pretty universal in their ability to bring us joy. She discovered pops of color and circular shapes are very pleasing.  It's only 13 minutes but a very well spent 13 minutes.

"...if the aesthetics of joy can be used to help us find more joy in the world around us, then couldn't they also be used to create more joy?"

Try this. Listen to this short talk and try incorporating some of her ideas into your creative efforts.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

#191 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life; Make a Happiness Box (to stash for a bad day)!

"Happiness Box" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
This exercise came out of the Stampington magazine Bella Grace article "45 Happiness Boxes to Stash for a Bad Day." They asked their readers "What five physical items would they pack up in their Happiness Boxes." A Happiness Box is a box filled with items that make us happy. The box is then stashed away and reserved for those hard-to-get through days, when we can pull it out and find instant comfort. The article is full to the brim with endorphins and other good brain chemistry!

Just the thought of what I would put in such a box is delightful.

My contents:
1. Art Journaling materials
2. Favorite morning pages image with at least one favorite Bergamasco featured prominantly
3. Dark chocolate and dried cherries
4. Candles
5. Incense

What would you put in your Happiness Box?