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.
It’s that time of year when political ads, calls, debates, mailings, and commentaries overload our senses along with fall colors. The upcoming elections in the United States are causing almost everyone’s stress levels to climb. Stress happens even when we don’t realize it and impacts our memories more than we think.
Everyday activities like simply watching the news, conversing in a coffee shop, or dining with friends can be a new source of stress. When routines are disrupted, change is forced upon us or uncertain futures loom, our stress meters creep into overload and even simple things escape our memory.
Stress can come from any source, but the symptoms are the same. Focusing is lost, scatterbrain develops, sleep is erratic, eating disrupted, and normal relationships feel strained. Stress causes many physical symptoms and even contributes to diseases, but its impact on our memory can also be quite impairing.
Is your stress meter needle inching into the red zone with the upcoming elections, holidays or other stressors looming? Feeling scattered, with even less of a memory than you used to have? You’re not alone. Many slip into depressive moods, fight more physical ailments than usual, and can’t make decisions well as the holidays approach. Stress contributes to all of this, yet many don’t always see stress as their source.
Elections, holidays, and other stressors will come and go and it’s up to each of us to manage how we deal with the effects of them. The first step like most things is to acknowledge if there’s an issue. Some people thrive on the increased activities and stress surrounding big events. Others struggle and if so, the next step is crucial.
Understanding how stress affects each of us is a great learning tool for our emotional and memory wellness. We can’t always change stress or its sources, but we can always manage our reactions. Our overall attitude matters a lot here and we’ll discuss that another day, but for now let’s focus on our stress awareness and management.
If we don’t manage stress well, physical and memory symptoms will develop. So let’s be aware of our typical reactions and then manage them in a healthy way to mitigate any potential fallout.
Some of the best ways to manage stress are also (not surprisingly) good for our brains. Try some of these stress busters:
- Exercise. This releases endorphins improving mood, sleep and increases blood flow to help our memory. Win, win, win!
- Take a mental or physical break. If able, physically get away if only for a few moments from any stress inducing person or situation. Some fresh air and a change of venue can do wonders for perspective. If this isn’t possible, take a mini respite in your own mind for a few seconds or minutes. Breathe in deeply a few times and draw in some fresh oxygen and perspective.
- Talk it over. Whether it’s with a close friend, family member, an impartial professional or higher power, talking through a stressful situation with another can often help us find a solution or at least the next step.
- Change it up. Often when faced with a stressful situation, we become creatures of habit. Sometimes, these habits can perpetuate the stress. Changing something, anything can often create momentum to move us in a new and less stressful direction.
Stress sneaks up on us or comes with full force. It stems from both unsettling and happy events and impacts our memory more than we imagine. Being diligently aware of its symptoms in ourselves and others will lead to many more memorable and less stress filled moments. So let’s be alert, manage stress and make more memories!
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!