We all do it. Hit the snooze button at least once instead of rising with our alarm. It’s a mechanism many of us use to grab just a few more moments of sleep. While we may drift off for a few seconds, more often we lie in a semi-conscious fog, simply not wanting to get up. Soon, ten, twenty, even sixty minutes are snooze buttoned away. Enough! Don’t hit the snooze button-let’s get up, address our sleep issues and enjoy more memorable moments.
Did you watch the Super Bowl? I am always impressed with the athleticism of some of the players. Their agility, strength, and speed inspire. But it doesn’t just happen. Years of practice, repetition and habits lead to the athleticism culminating in Super Bowl moments.
Becoming more physically fit is a priority goal for me this year and maybe for you too. The best method for us is also to create a habit. If you know me, you know I love discussing habits! Various lifestyle habits will be on tap here for the next few weeks and exercise is a great place to begin.
In honor of National Family Caregivers month wrapping up this week, I’m revisiting portions of a post I originally published here a few years ago. I’ve learned even more since then and have included those additional insights. Family care giving is close to my heart as it’s been one of my roles a number of times now. Knowing how to care for myself as I cared for others was a godsend and I hope this information can be of assistance to many of you now or in the future.
Many of us care for others but don’t realize we are caregivers. We see it as our job or role as a parent, child, spouse, doctor, nurse, social worker, home health aide, therapist, teacher, manager, employer, you name it. But the giving our time, efforts and ourselves can be draining. How we care for ourselves while caring for others is often overlooked and something we all need to pay attention to, caregiver or not.
Caregivers who are paid for their efforts may think their work is done when they head home. But many of us go home to care for children, parents or other loved ones. One thing is common among caregivers: we typically put our own needs last. This may be a noble or loving gesture, but often it’s done out of a sense of duty, lack of resources or just not enough hours in the day. Whatever the reason, the practice of always putting others first as a caregiver causes undue stress. Caregiver stress is a growing national problem, one that is responsible for illness, depression and financial burden.
Caregiver stress begins to manifest in many ways: increased irritability, lack of interest in life, high blood pressure, headaches, weight gain or shallow breathing which can all eventually lead to further health issues. When a caregiver is ill, it creates even more stress not only on them but also who they are caring for-it’s a vicious cycle. This stress is a growing issue in our communities and the sooner we address it, the sooner everyone’s quality of life will improve.
- Ask for Help-As Caregivers, we think we need to do it all. But we don’t. Getting assistance from others can initially be a bit more stressful, but typically brings a needed respite. If you are a caregiver and don’t know where to turn for help, ask medical, legal, or social professionals in your area for information on resources available. There are often many paid and volunteer options. Asking family and friends to assist is also a great option. In stressful situations, many people want to help but don’t know what is needed. Allow others to help. But the first step is to ask.
- Take a breath-literally and figuratively. When caring for ill loved ones. I didn’t have time for a haircut, let alone consistently exercise, cook healthy meals or do something for myself. Sometimes, all I could do was take a deep breath. In those deep breath moments, I often prayed and found what I needed to move on. Taking time for ourselves is crucial, but those moments can be elusive. A deep breath, a few minutes of fresh air or even being in the bathroom alone can be rejuvenating. Take a moment (or two if possible) for yourself. Regroup, pray, calm yourself and breathe-you will put more oxygen into your body and brain to think and act clearly. Do it for yourself and those you care for.
- Assess your system(s). As we care for others, or even just ourselves, we develop certain ways of doing things, honed over time or necessity. But as life changes so must our way of doing things. The same way is not always the best way and different is not always bad. Fresh eyes can often bring new and needed perspective. But change is difficult, especially as we get older. Embrace change in a positive manner and over time if necessary. It may involve letting go of some patterns, people or projects to add new or needed change.
- Don’t neglect your own health. It’s important to keep our own doctor’s appointments, make time to exercise, eat and sleep well, and have a few moments to ourselves each day. If we don’t, nagging issues can turn into chronic problems which will only compound our care giving responsibilities. This is where family and friends or adding some volunteer or paid assistance is a beneficial use of resources. Taking care of the caregiver is a wise investment.
Caring for others is a joy for many of us. We see it as our life’s work and/or a precious season of life. But always giving from an unfilled bucket will eventually leave us drained. We are only given one life to live. Let’s make all our moments memorable not only for ourselves but those we care for as well.
Spraining my ankle last month has impacted me more than just physically. Not being able to exercise as I normally would has brought changes including not always feeling as mentally sharp, motivated or energized. With my activity curtailed, I also miss seeing the seasonal changes nature paints in September as I walk. It’s time to explore a different way.
Physical exercise is one of the best things we can do for our bodies and our brains. The increased blood flow helps feed our brain cells and keep them growing and functioning well. Less exercise means less blood flow to help maintain our brains and bodies. But when injured or other life situations occur, we can’t always keep our exercise routine. It’s in these times we need to get creative.
Exercise takes all forms. The important element of exercise that assists our brains is the aerobic component-creating enough exertion to increase oxygen flow to brain and body. This can be done in a myriad of ways. Just because our normal routine isn’t possible, doesn’t mean we can’t still be physically active.
Here are a few ways we can vary your exercise regimen:
Use different methods. I typically take brisk walks to exercise. But lately I’ve been doing more stretching, isometrics and limited walking within what’s feasible. It’s not ideal but it’s something. Now that my ankle is more stable, I’m going to add biking and yoga to the mix. Doing different forms of exercise also strengthens different muscle groups and keeps our brains thinking!
Take a class. Trying something new or being in a group not only helps us learn new activities, but helps maintain a pace and do so in a social environment-all incredibly brain boosting behaviors!
Do it Together. When exercising alone, we can lose motivation. Exercising with a friend creates accountability and makes it more fun!
Go Exploring. Different venues can create an atmosphere of adventure. I love seeing the colors change when I go for a walk. Exploring different local areas allows me to experience this in a new way while hiking or biking which is different for me. Great for brain and body!
Physically exercising our bodies can become difficult at times due to injury, lack of motivation, boredom, or other reasons. Being creative and exploring new options or opportunities to exercise differently allows us to keep it interesting and fresh. This not only benefits our bodies but also our brains and memories in many ways.
Exercise is an important element of our lifestyle which greatly affects our memories. Let’s not delay, defer or procrastinate, but instead go exploring!
Winds are shifting, leaves are beginning to fall and school bells are ringing. These telltale end of summer signs may make us feel sad about the end of one season and the beginning of another. But if you’ve participated in our #SummerToRemember series, it’s my hope you have plenty of memories to draw upon as autumn approaches.
Mine sure has been a summer to remember with monumental birthdays, milestone events and small moments to cherish. Whether yours was full of big moments or a series of small, all of them are worth savoring. We began this series with the premise that life is short, so let’s make our choices count. The goal was to create an environment for making memories of all our fleeting moments. I did pretty well-how about you?
First off, we discussed how the choices we make reflect what we value while also impacting what and how well we remember. What we choose to think about and how we manage our physical wellness is imperative. Taking care of our bodies and also prioritizing what’s important dictates how well we live and recall our lives. Making healthy choices matter.
To that end, we began with some challenges. The first one was to be aware of and hone the skill of focused attention. How we each do this is unique, but the main point is if we don’t or can’t pay attention well, we will never remember anything. It’s just not possible to input information into our memory without paying attention. If we learn and apply this, we’ll remember more.
Next was a challenge to identify HOW we individually prefer to remember. This typically stems from how we learn or our learning style-visual, auditory or tactile. We may not all understand how we learn best, but thinking about what we enjoy is a first step in knowing our unique learning style(s). Then we apply memory techniques to coincide with how we learn and bingo-we begin to remember more!
Now that we know how to remember more, our challenge focus shifted to keeping our brains healthier. Just like a muscle wants to move, the brain wants to be used. It’s the old ‘use it or lose it’ adage which rings so true. We need to keep learning to keep remembering. Resting on our laurels only allows our brains to atrophy. In order to make it a summer or any moment to remember, we need to keep our brains learning, growing, creating, and maintaining neural connections. This can even be improved upon by stepping out of our comfort zones.
Just as we need to keep our brains learning, we need to keep our bodies moving. Exercising our bodies feeds our brains to function better. Remembering well is enhanced by physical exercise and hopefully the 5 tips to encourage more movement benefited you this summer!
Remembering well is not just about the what, but also the how. How something feels as well as how we think impacts what we remember. Using our senses to connect memories while having a good attitude about life and all we experience truly strengthens our actual memories.
To remember well It’s crucial to manage the three S’s-socialization, sleep and stress. If these aren’t in sync and managed well, our moments can easily turn into ones of lonely, sleepless stress. Often this summer, my sleep habits were varied and I always felt it. Crabby, groggy and foggy could have described me on some days. But managing, adapting, and adjusting my sleep and stress when I could (not always as well as I would have hoped) was beneficial. Being with others can either cause stress or relieve it. Using all the tips given in these posts helped me manage and improve these big three components.
We went through a wealth of information in this #SummerToRemember series. It’s my hope you were able to learn but most importantly apply this information to make your own moments memorable. Take these memories and literally and figuratively store them in your memory and/or as something tangible like pictures, a journal or even simply sharing them with others. Our memories make up the fabric of our lives and the patchwork of our identity.
As we turn to September, autumn and the seasonal and life changes which will evoke different memories, I’ll be taking a week off to make and share memories with loved ones over Labor Day. Please do the same.
Life is short and every moment is meant to be savored. Take some time to enjoy the long weekend and share some memories with others. I’ll be back the following week, ready to encourage us all to even more memorable moments!