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.
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.
To sleep or not to sleep, that is the question for many of us. No matter what stage of life, from infancy to our last days, sleep is always a priority. This has never been truer for me than in the last month.
It doesn’t matter if we are infants, parents of infants, stressed teens or adults, or older adults wrestling with sleep issues, every stage of life presents sleep challenges. Infants, children and even teens need extra sleep for brains to process and develop adequately. Parents of said children need sleep to be able to parent them well. As adults, many issues can interfere with sleep, some we have control over and others we don’t. Older adults often have their sleep interrupted by changing physical conditions and surroundings. Numerous variables impact our sleep, but the one thing that is constant is how important sleep is to our mental and physical wellness.
In the last month, I’ve dealt with physical issues, caregiving challenges and also mental roadblocks which have impacted my sleep. I understand the importance of sleep to mental and physical wellness, but not all the circumstances were under my control. I imagine this has happened to all of us at one time or another. So what can we do?
Control what we can and manage the rest.
At times, I chose less sleep due to unforeseen or uncontrollable circumstances. Other times, physical issues made sleeping more difficult and still other nights, worry invaded my peaceful rest. Not all of these were of my own doing. But I did strive to balance what I could to achieve at least a decent amount of sleep. Now that many of the issues have been or are resolved, my sleep is improving. But in the midst of the worst, I did what I could to manage.
A recent article reminded me of what’s all at stake with sleep and our memories. Our brain links memories with the rest of our world when we sleep. If this process doesn’t occur for whatever reason, we wind up not functioning as well mentally or physically the next day. Our memories are impacted and we cannot make decisions well. None of these are helpful as we try to function and learn whether as children or adults.
Here are a few tips that may be helpful when sleep challenges arise:
- Make sleep a priority. Don’t put it off thinking you can make it up later. Set a bedtime and try to stick to it. If you literally can’t sleep as much as you should due to unforeseen circumstances, do your best to get as much as you can and get back on track ASAP.
- Don’t do anything but sleep. Don’t eat or watch TV, don’t worry or wonder, let it all go and rest. Write down any concerns you have, try to relax and let sleep come. Often new solutions rise when we lay down our worries with our heads.
- Try to plan for contingencies. If physical issues could cause problems while sleeping, take preventative measures. If too hot, use a fan. If in discomfort, try a new position or different pillow arrangements. Think ahead to solve some issues in advance.
- If sleep deprived, try a nap. If a good night’s sleep was missed, a short (~30 minute) nap the next day can be incredibly helpful and refreshing.
- Keep trying. There will be days and even weeks when sleep eludes us for various reasons in life. But let’s not slide into bad habits. Keep trying to get back on track to a healthy sleep schedule. Our bodies and minds will thank us.
Sleep is an integral part of our lives from birth to death. How we learn to manage and make it a priority in our lives will make an enormous difference in the quality of our lives. So here’s to sleeping well, remembering more and enjoying life one moment at a time.
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!
Ahh sleep-refreshing, rejuvenating and elusive? Our heads hit the pillow after a long day and we just want to relax. We collapse, find that comfortable spot and drift to dreamland, right? Wrong. For many people, especially those who are older, sleep becomes more elusive with age. Scientists and the medical community are educating us all on the importance of sleep for our bodies and brains. So how can we sleep well?
This generation is trending toward less sleep than many before it. Technology advances, never ending options for entertainment and commerce, fear of missing out, bodily changes as we age, are all reasons to explain why we are sleeping less. Sleep plays a pivotal role in our body and mind wellness, yet the processes aren’t fully known.
One things researchers do know about sleep is that is provides a virtual rewind and organizational component to brain and memory wellness. When we get enough sleep, these brain functions occur naturally and assist memory. When we don’t, things get backed up and just like a messy desk or an overgrown garden, it takes longer to be more efficient in our efforts the next day.
We know we need to sleep in order to function well in mind and body, yet our actions don’t always fit our wishes. I’m a perfect example.
I need at least seven hours of sleep to function optimally but that is a rare occurrence. Getting up early for school, work or summer events, carving out a bit of quiet time for myself and/or being so used to getting up early I can’t sleep late anymore are a few of the reasons why I often don’t make that seven hour mark.
My fitness tracker also monitors my sleep and sometimes I catch up a bit on weekends, but my average sleep amount still usually falls short of those refreshing seven. And I feel it. Some days I’m just not physically or mentally sharp due to my lesser sleeping time. Getting to bed and sleep sooner is always a goal and I have made a dent.
My bedtime goal is earlier than it used to be. I’ve learned to manage the thoughts that sometimes make falling asleep difficult. I’ve adjusted my diet, our bedroom and our bed to make them more conducive to sleep. My motivation is not only to keep my body refreshed but also my brain and memory.
So here are a few tips that can help us to grab even just a few more moments of precious sleep:
- Keep a regular bedtime and wake schedule. Your body will then automatically sense when it’s time to sleep and awaken more naturally.
- Keep your bedroom about sleep. Don’t exercise, eat, watch TV, scroll the internet or be on any other electronic device before trying to get some sleep. Eliminating these things sets the tone to wind down and relax.
- Let go of what threatens the drift-off factor. Whether it’s thoughts, worries, moving around, or loud noises adjacent to your bedroom, let them go. Write down or pray about worries or things to do, find a comfy spot and try to stay there and control the noise. These will assist you to drift into dreamland more easily.
- Control your evening actions. Don’t exercise or eat a big meal. Don’t consume alcohol or caffeine right before bedtime. All of these can interfere with a more natural wind down time in the evenings.
- Work on what you can and when all else fails, talk to your doctor. There are many things we can control but if you’ve tried them all, see if your doctor has another solution. Maybe it’s adjusting your medications or trying another sleep producing alternative, but seek professional help if necessary.
Quality sleep is paramount in our efforts toward wellness in our body and mind. If we truly want to savor these last moments in our #SummerToRemember, we need to get enough sleep. See if these help with your sleep and overall memory and let’s remember our summer moments well!