The Caregiver Cup Podcast

Renewing Focus on Caregiver Health and Vitality

January 02, 2024 Cathy VandenHeuvel Episode 194
The Caregiver Cup Podcast
Renewing Focus on Caregiver Health and Vitality
The Caregiver Cup Podcast
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Discover the art of self-care and launch into a transformative New Year with us. As the confetti settles, we bring you a heartfelt conversation on how to make self-care not just a resolution, but a revolution in your daily life. Celebrating the New Year has taken on a new meaning for us; it's quieter, filled with intention, and a testament to our commitment to nurturing both body and mind. We unfold the importance of assessing the past year's caregiving journey, setting the scene to take on 2024 with renewed focus and self-love. Walk through a visualization exercise with us to tackle those overwhelming morning feelings and create a resilient strategy for stress management that honors the caregiver in you.

This time, we're not just talking about self-care—we're embodying it. Think of your energy as a precious battery that, just like your phone, needs to recharge to keep you at your best for those who depend on you. Join me on an empowering journey where simple acts like hydrating more or starting a journal can become catalysts for profound change. We'll explore how tracking these small yet significant steps can build into a lifestyle that celebrates growth and positivity. And don't miss out on our exclusive offer—the Empowering Caregivers training, designed to inspire and equip you with the tools necessary for a year of health, vitality, and transformative self-care.

Get my free resource:  17 SHIFTS TO TAKE CONTROL OF CAREGIVER STRESS that will take you to the best version of yourself.

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Speaker 1:

Welcome, my friend, to the first episode in 2024 and happy, happy New Year. I hope you had a great start to the New Year and a joyful holiday. I can count on one hand one hand when I actually went out on New Year's Eve, and it was probably more when I was younger. The perfect night for me for New Year's Eve is snuggling up on the couch with my PJs, watching a movie or reading a good book. As a matter of fact, this year I was fast asleep when the clock struck midnight. I live in Wisconsin, so it's really cold, and so when you go outside you have to dress up and oh, I'm just, I'm so over that. When I was younger that was the thing, but now that I'm in my 60s, I'll enjoy the New Year's Day better than I would the New Year's Eve. As a matter of fact, I'm recording this on New Year's Day and my husband and I went for a three mile walk this morning in our layers of clothes in our park and it just felt really good and the neighborhood was really quiet because everybody else probably stayed up and watched fireworks and all that kind of stuff. But the New Year let's talk about the podcast episode today. The New Year brings a fresh air, full of possibilities, full of free thoughts and new starts or restarts, and in today's episode, I want to talk more about focusing on you and taking better care of yourself in 2024, putting yourself first as a priority, and why it's so important when you're thinking about this fresh start and new start. I know a lot of people don't like New Year's resolutions and things like that, but it's just a nice reminder to say that we can mark this lake clean and start working on things, or start looking for possibilities and wishing for that.

Speaker 1:

Now, if you haven't listened to the last episode, which was episode 193, called caregiver practice reflection practices as we move into 2024. Last week, I talked about the time. It is really a good time to assess your 2023 and what happened last year and then set a new focus or set a focus for 2024. If you didn't take the time to listen to the episode, maybe you stop and listen to that one first and then come back to this one, or listen to it right after today's episode, because there's a reflection practice that I am sharing, a free resource for that will walk you through the questions to ask yourself, and it's really a great time to look at what you did in 2023 from the good things, the bad things, the challenging things, what are you most proud of and really take some time to reflect on it and then start focusing on what do you want to shift and change. So, if you go to Kathy L van dot com forward slash reflection, you will be able to get my free resource so that you don't have to take notes during that episode, or you can just get the resource for free and start doing that too.

Speaker 1:

Now. My hope for you this year is that your main focus is on yourself in one way or another, whether it be self care, whether it be sleep growth or getting more help in your caregiving life. Last year I remember last year setting my focus in it was going to be 2023 was my year of healing and taking small steps to really looking at what 20, the year before, was all about and where I didn't take good care of my, my health and myself, and what I really did is. I mapped out all of those things and then I started slowly focusing on what I could do, and really what I wanted to do was take time for myself and eat healthy and learning to prioritize the importance of myself. This took me the entire year, since I took very small steps and I'm going to explain these later in the podcast episode to give you some inspiration but took very small steps each day.

Speaker 1:

It wasn't easy to stay committed to my personal promises that I set for myself, and I had to make hard choices and build strong habits. I had to say no and set healthier boundaries. And then I had to grant myself grace when I fell off the wagon or made mistakes, or I went back to my people pleasing. I had to ignore these negative thoughts because it's so easy to quit. It's always easy to just say I can't do this, caregiving is just throwing me for another loop. But I had to do, had to talk myself out of those and and then I had to pick myself up when I fell down and two of my major major voices in my head and I know you as a caregiver are think these major voices or think these thoughts are.

Speaker 1:

Let me drink my cup of coffee here first. These are the things that we tell ourselves I'm too tired to take care of myself, I'm too tired, I'm just too tired, or I have no time, and I'm going to go ahead and debate these with you and share the truths behind these with you as well. But I want to do something fun right now, before we actually dive into the end of the podcast episode where I give you some some hard steps and some good steps to follow. I want to do something fun here and I want you to imagine this you are laying in bed and it's morning and all of a sudden, your alarm goes off at 6am or whenever you wake up usually 6am, I'm going to say immediately your chest tightens with the usual mix of panic and dread at the thought of another jam packed day or another caregiving day ahead and that might look like for you. Think about what that normal, chaotic, stressful caregiving day looks like, or a normal day. I was listening to an episode of Hoda's. I don't know what her what her podcast episode is name is, but she was interviewing. Oh gosh, now I can't even remember, but I have to go to it quick. I'm trying to think of her name. It's not Maria Ethridge, but she was interviewing, interviewing somebody, and she had said your normal day.

Speaker 1:

Think about a Wednesday and think about maybe it's for you, it's caring for your loved one, where you have to get breakfast made the medicines out, you have to take care of their bathing and laundry, and then you have to take them to doctors appointment or therapy appointments and more. So that could be a typical day in the life. Or maybe for you, you're juggling your career or your job, and so you cram everything in the morning that you have to do. You go to work very, you know, trying to get everything done, and you come home and you have to work again. From a caregiving perspective, maybe you have to make the meal and do whatever you need to do. Or maybe one of your days is that you have to wake up and you have to do all this, this administrative stuff that you don't like to do. Like you have to do the insurance calls because they deny the claim for your loved one. You have to do scheduling because you have too many things scheduled. Or you have to talk to the doctor because your loved one is having some adverse reactions, whatever it would be. Or today is the day you need to call your siblings or have hard conversations and you need to ask for help, because you can't do it all and you made that decision that I'm going to have to pull in some extra help and tell your loved one that you can't do it all, whatever it would be.

Speaker 1:

You wake up in this panic and you're sweating and you're dreading. Today, as you're opening up your eyes, at this 6am, alarm clock going off, you see something standing at the bottom of your bed and there's someone there and you may even cuss. Wtf, it's a fairy godmother standing at the foot of your bed. She is this perky, cute girl standing with this cute gown with fur and lace and fluff. She has these butterfly wings on, she's got this crown of flowers and she's waving this magical wand.

Speaker 1:

You close your eyes again and think am I dreaming? And you open it up and she's still there. She looks at you and says honey, today you're completely free to do as you wish. And she waves her wand All your responsibilities are handled. You don't have to take care of anyone today but yourself. Okay. You rub your eyes and you blink again. No, you're not dreaming, this is really happening.

Speaker 1:

She says so what would you like to do today? Your mind races and you reply well, I don't know. My friend, let's just take a step back, my friend, if the idea of taking an hour to yourself, much less a whole day, feels like an impossible fairy tale. I get it. I get it because, as caregivers like you and I, we don't get an entire day off or it's very rare. And if we do, what are we usually doing? We're trying to fit in the cram in the things that we've neglected or didn't do. I might be if I got a day off. I might be cramming in putting away the Christmas decorations and getting them all packed up because I don't have time to do it all at once. But you have to think about what you would do if you had an entire day to just yourself, if you're not sure what you would do with more time, even if you had it. You're not alone because as caregivers, we've been reprogrammed to go ahead and just keep going and take care of everybody else.

Speaker 1:

In fact, I've talked to many caregivers about this and had conversations about this, and here are three of them that I've kind of re summarized. But they had said I struggle with setting limits. I'm at my loved one's beckoning call and that's my new normal now, more or less. You don't know. Your loved one drives the vehicle now. Or another person says I don't know how to commit to things I need to do for myself, with the demands of work or with the demands of caregiving or with the demands of family. By the time I take care of myself, I'm exhausted and useless. Or the third one I have is how can I find strength or courage or justification to honor myself and my needs? Because when I do want to do something for myself, I feel guilty and ashamed for taking that time for myself.

Speaker 1:

How many times have you sat in maybe the hairdresser or chair thinking, oh my gosh, I feel almost guilty for getting my hair done. Or I feel guilty for walking them all or doing something reading a book? If you feel like you don't even have time to dream, because there's always something or someone who needs you and needs your attention, then you need to hear this even more today in the podcast episode. Okay, the fairy godmother is still there and she's waiting for your answer. She's waiting, you know, and she's so beautiful and cute and you can't just tell her to go away. So I want you to take a moment and dream of the ideal place that you would go today If you could do the entire day to yourself.

Speaker 1:

I thought about it. There's a few places that I would love to go, maybe a beach house where I could go ahead and have a beach house to myself I think I watch too much Frankie and Grace, or Grace and Frankie, or whatever it's called and then you go sit out onto the beach when you wanted to. You could go sit on the patio, yeah. Or maybe it's a log cabin in the woods and you're just enjoying your. Maybe you're by the lake or you're just in nature and the forest or the woods, or maybe it's a park bench and it's sun shining, a beautiful day. Or maybe for you it's getting together with friends and just enjoying other people's company and conversations, especially if you're an extrovert. Maybe you go to a concert with friends, or maybe you want to do something activity wise, maybe it's skiing in the mountains, whatever it would be. Think about the place that you would go if you had that day Now.

Speaker 1:

How would you feel about with uninterrupted you time and you could do whatever you wanted to do? I want you to think about how you would feel if you could go ahead and just sit peacefully and have a cup of coffee or read a book without interruption, or your mind doesn't wander and worry about anything. What would you feel? Would it be joy, happiness, would you have more energy? Would you be inspired? You're filling your cup. You should be feeling like you're filling your cup and now think about coming back from that day off the following day. You're feeling recharged and everyone around you can sense that. You feel it. You feel a new sense of energy and can actually see things clearer and are ready to make shifts and changes, because you've had that time to just kind of know what you want, and you want to improve yourself and have more joy and less stress in your life.

Speaker 1:

Well, it doesn't take a fairy godmother to see that taking care of yourself is important, right? Here are some reasons you need to take care of yourself. I'm going to just go through three reasons, and you probably can add to these, but I think there's justification in hearing these, because we right away want to push them off to the side. I mentioned this one first, as we were talking about going away and finding time for yourself. You, one of the reasons that you need to take care of yourself is you've got to recharge If you want energy, you want your emotions to be intact, you want less stress and be at your best. Your phone needs to be recharged. If you don't recharge your phone, the battery. You get the battery alerts that your battery is dying and then eventually it just shuts off.

Speaker 1:

Taking care of yourself isn't pampering. It's ensuring you have physical and mental energy to tackle these life challenges that you're going through. For you, you have to think about what that looks like for you. Is it a bath? Is it a walk in the park? Is it simply finding a quiet moment with a book? You have to find what recharges your battery in the season that you're in. If your season is that chaotic season, you may only have a short period of time. So what recharges your battery? And then, once you know what helps recharge your battery and it may take you a while to figure it out then you have to plan it in your calendar or plan it in your day to ensure that it is a priority and you take advantage of it so that you can go ahead and recharge and when you're recharging, nobody else is vying for your attention. You get that time to recharge. You think about it. That's why people have breaks at work, that's why people have vacation time, because they need that time to recharge. The second one, the second reason it's literally the least you can do. It's the main thing that you can do. If I asked you what are your main caregiver responsibilities? One better be taking care of myself and making myself a priority.

Speaker 1:

When you care about others or you care for others, you're often expected to take care of everybody else first. We know that we typically juggle varying roles and responsibilities, and yet we rarely, or very rarely, do we, put ourselves on our to-do list. Years ago and I still do this because I'm drinking my cup of coffee. But I'm drinking my cup of coffee just to kind of keep me going for this podcast episode. But years ago, when I was in the worst caregiving seasons, I lived off of caffeine and going most of the day without any eating, any real nutrition, only to go home at the end of the night or when my loved one went to bed and I would just binge on junk food. So why do you put so much effort into caring for them, making sure they stay healthy, and you're not taking care of yourself In the midst of caring for others? It's essential to recognize that you deserve the same level of care and attention. I can't tell you how many times this year I said I'll get to you soon as I eat my salad for lunch.

Speaker 1:

Taking time for yourself isn't selfish. It's an investment into your well-being. You have to go ahead and recharge and refuel and take care of yourself. And the third one, which I feel is the ultimate, most important, is you're the manager of your loved one. You are the CEO. You are the person. You play a vital role as that manager and CEO with many responsibilities to your loved one. And if you're not at your best, you're not going to be the best for your loved one. Think about it you're advocating, you're nursing, you're doing the bookkeeping, you're managing their household, they're bathing, whatever it would be. You're wearing all of these hats. So by prioritizing your health and well-being, you set the expectation of how you need to be at your best, showing that self-care is not only acceptable but essential. Your actions may even inspire those close to you to do the same.

Speaker 1:

You think about it. Something as basic as you know a teacher. If a teacher isn't at their best, how are they going to go ahead and share their lessons and teach their students? They have to be at their best, meaning. That's why they have to go ahead and take their breaks. That's why they have spring break and winter break, because they need that time to recharge. I used to tease my daughter-in-law saying, why do you need another break? And she goes. You know, they're on from you know the start of the day to the end of the day. They're doing lesson planning and grading and all that stuff at the end of the night, so they don't work just from you know morning until the school is done. They work very long hours, as teachers, or most of them do, and so so those are the three reasons that I have. If you have more, think of more.

Speaker 1:

So as you start this new year, 2024, I want you to flip the script and start your journey. Start your, whatever it would be. Mine was the healing journey. Start filling your cup. My advice to you is start small. Identify what you want to work on this year and then map out or think about small, little steps. It doesn't have to take now, like the fairy godmother said, the entire day. But won't that be wonderful if you could have one day a month off? Or? But it could be 15 minutes. It could be five minutes in the morning, five minutes in the afternoon and five minutes in the evening, whatever it would be. You start small and work on recharging. Think about when that battery is low and you don't have the whole entire time to plug it in and let it recharge up. You might plug it in for five minutes and you might get 20%, and then at the middle of the day you plug it in again and okay, I'm going to give it 10 more percent. That's what you want to do.

Speaker 1:

So let me share the example of last January with you. So remember, last year was my year of healing, and so last January I decided, okay, what am I going to do? Because I wanted small start small, but I wanted to make small wins. And so in January the first of January I committed to drinking water and I had to think about how I would do that. And so I had these big water bottles and I had to drink all of these waters. I had to drink half the weight of my water, and that's what I wanted to do. So it required me to fill the waters and then track my intake of the water. And after a week of first few days, it's like I was peeing, like a racehorse. I was peeing all the time, but then eventually, my body adjusted and I started noticing I'm feeling a little bit better. I'm feeling a little bit better.

Speaker 1:

Some days I didn't get it all done, some days I did, and so I just kept working on that. That was small steps and that didn't take a lot of time. It just took my attention. But I started feeling energy and I felt good about sticking to it. Win, win, win. Two weeks later I said, hmm, what else can I do? I added journaling into it. Now, I was always a journaler, but I wanted to go ahead and be intentional about my healing and I wanted to focus on healing and gratitude and wins. So I started tracking my feelings and my challenges and started adapting. What am I going to do when negative thoughts click in? In my Empowerful Caregiver School that's coming up soon If you go to kathielvancom forward, slash Empowerful I talk about steps and techniques to get rid of negative thoughts, and so I started looking for things that would distract my negative thoughts, like hearts or mailboxes, and I started thinking about it.

Speaker 1:

I would track how many times I had negative thoughts and what I did to get rid of those negative thoughts. So I was doing that in addition to water. Then I kind of let it settle until I started realizing that those two were working. Then I added walking into it, and I was a walker but I wasn't committed to going ahead and walking without negative thoughts and drinking my water. So I added water as I got that routine in and I found time to do that. Then I added meditation before bed, which I would. You know what I was doing instead of meditating before bed looking at my phone. So I stopped looking at my phone for five minutes and I meditated. I put down my phone, put it away and I meditated and it started helping me with my thoughts and started doing that.

Speaker 1:

The reason I'm telling this is I didn't go all in and say I'm going to work on all of this at the same time. I'm going to commit an hour each day and I'm going to do this, this, this, this, this and this. If you do that, it probably 90% of us would fail. There's only like a less than 10% of us would stay committed to that, because how can you do that if you haven't done it before? So I want to share something that I read yesterday in one of my Facebook friends' posts, and I'm not taking all of it, but I thought it was really harsh at first and I rolled my eyes, but it must have stuck with me because it has to do with some.

Speaker 1:

People say they don't have time, they don't have money, they don't have energy, they don't have this. And this is challenging those negative thoughts. Somebody might say I don't have any time to learn a new skill, this new skill is going to take me two hours. I don't have time for it. But then, if they reflect on it, they just watch two hours of Netflix and decided they're going to watch one more episode because it's so good. They do have the time, but they're making choices of what they're going to go ahead and do. Somebody might say I don't have any money, or this is, I don't have a lot of money for healthy groceries $100 for organic groceries is way too much. But then if they look at their bank statement, they just had dinner and dessert last week and it cost them $100.

Speaker 1:

So you think about those things. Or you might say I never get enough sleep, I can't sleep at night, or I'm not getting my recommended hours of sleep. But if they really thought about it, what are they doing before bed? Are they on their phone playing a game? Or are they on their phone scrolling versus putting the phone down and shutting everything down and getting a good night's sleep. That's the kind of thought.

Speaker 1:

So I want to challenge you to say, if you're thinking about I can't do this, I don't have any time, there's no way I can do this, there is a way, and I want you to think about that way and thinking about the small steps that you can do. Or if somebody says there's no way I can get the help that I need, there's nobody there to help me, I want you to think about it and think outside the box. As a matter of fact, I have something free for you coming up. It's my free training coming up on January 9th through January 12th, and you can register for my four essential practices that I've incorporated as a caregiver. That I know will help you spark some ideas for you. So go to my website, kathyelvancom. You're gonna see that one line is a picture of me and a little bit about my website, and then right underneath it is the registration, where you have to give me your name and your email address and then you can register for that training and then you're gonna get a series of emails for each day of the training. So I hope you go ahead and do that and it's called Empowering, and then it's Empowering Caregivers my four essential practices. So go to my website. It's totally free for you and each day, what you'll get is you'll get a video in your email box and you can go ahead and watch that email and it'll hopefully give you some inspiration.

Speaker 1:

To end today, I want you to think about the importance of putting yourself first and starting to go ahead and incorporate some of those things that you can do for yourself knowing what you need to recharge and if you need a good night's sleep, well then you have to work on strategies to go ahead and work to a good night's sleep. It might be going ahead and going to bed an hour earlier, or it might be going ahead and stopping your caffeine at a certain time, or it might be I need to go ahead and take better care of myself. So tomorrow I'm going to go ahead and call and schedule for my dentist appointment and my doctor appointment and my eye appointment for this year and making sure that I'm taking care of my health. Whatever it would be, commit to it and take action on it, and you might have to take baby steps, but you're going to see some progress. So I'm going to end today with this statement, and I don't think there is. It's a quote, or, if it is, I don't know who the creator of the quote is, but I love the statement here Putting yourself first doesn't mean you don't care about others.

Speaker 1:

It means you're smart enough to know you can't help others if you don't help yourself. It's so very important Again. That's why I feel, that's why I called this podcast the caregiver podcast, because I want to empower you to be your best self, and to be your best self, you have to go ahead and take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself means from an emotional, a physical, a spiritual and a social perspective, and so where are you lacking? Where do you need to go ahead and work on yourself and start making small steps this year to go ahead and work on that? Maybe self-care is it for you, or your word of the year is recharging, or, like last year, it was healing, and so I have.

Speaker 1:

Mine is more business focused this year, because I want to up my game from a business perspective. So my words this year are get in the game and get on the field. And so, in addition to taking care of myself, which that I have to do. To do that, I have to take those steps that I am just deathly afraid of to go ahead and step onto the field and contribute and work my business even further and reach more people. So I want to thank you for listening to today's caregiver podcast. I hope you found this beneficial today and I hope this kind of sparked you to know that you are so important and you deserve to go ahead and take care of yourself first, so that you can be the best you can be. So we'll talk to you again next week and until we meet again next week, bye for now.

Prioritizing Self-Care in 2024
The Importance of Self-Care and Recharging
Small Steps to Self-Care and Empowerment