By heatherericksonauthor.comThe Erickson Family

Category Archives: 2019 A to Z Challenge

A-Z Blogging

The 2019 A to Z Blogging Challenge didn’t go as expected for me.  spent the months of January and February writing posts for both, Facing Cancer with Grace and Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker. I scheduled them to publish automatically, as I have done in past years, planning to use April to comment on other A to Z bloggers’ posts. In past years, this has been extremely helpful. This year A to Z would take a back seat. In March, my husband’s cancer took a dramatic turn for the worse. By the end of March, after repeated visits to the hospital, including a couple of extended visits, he returned home to begin in-home hospice. That month was so intense. There wasn’t a minute that went unaccounted for. Read more…

Household Chores

There are so many things in life that require your attention, even if you are facing a crisis like cancer. Thankfully, one of those things can be somewhat ignored for a while: household chores. Unfortunately, they can’t be ignored forever. Even if you are accustomed to a neat and tidy home, it’s really important to give yourself and your family members some grace when it comes to household chores, because they can quickly pile up. This is especially true if you have children and/or teenagers at home. While the world won’t fall apart if your house is a mess, a backup of household chores can put some people on edge and overwhelm them even more. The best way to deal with this is to find Read more…

Your Self Care

We hear a lot about self-care, especially as caregivers. Yet many of us continue to feel guilty when we practice it.  Why is that? What can you do to change your attitude toward your self-care? Everyone else comes first. As caregivers, we become good at looking out for the well-being of everyone around us, while neglecting our own well-being. It’s an easy trap to fall into. As your loved one is being diagnosed, your sympathetic nervous system kicks into high gear. This is the fight or flight mechanism that turns on when you need to make rapid life and death decisions. It’s understandable that for a while, all of your attention will be focused on your loved one. The problem is that we often forget Read more…

Cope with Stress

Here are 10 healthy ways to cope with the stress and anxiety that often accompany caregiving: Play a Game 50% of all men and 48% of all women play video games[1], including me. Of course, playing an analog game is another healthy way to cope with stress. You can play a board game as a family or if you prefer to play solo, a deck of cards can provide lots of enjoyment. While many people view this as a waste of time, there are positive things about gaming (in moderation).  One of them is stress relief. Games provide an escape from the pressures you may be under as a caregiver. It’s important that you don’t spend so much time playing games, that you fall behind Read more…

Walking

Caregivers often experience greater depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, than their non-caregiving counterparts. Aerobic exercise, such as walking, has been proven to improve your mood while reducing stress and anxiety. Even as little as 5 minutes of this movement can make a difference. Walking increases the feel-good neurotransmitters, endorphins. The caregiver’s physical health tends to suffer as well.[1] One of the best, most available ways to improve your health is to start walking. Walking improves your overall physical health. This is important because an additional health issue will only add to the things on your plate. Mindful Walking Mindful walking is an excellent way to combine the physical and mental benefits of movement and mindfulness. This video will take you through one way Read more…

Vacation

Our family has always enjoyed traveling. Sometimes we will take a vacation as a family, while at other times. My husband and I will plan a getaway for just the 2 of us. When Dan was diagnosed with cancer, vacations changed. We had to travel around his treatment schedule. But, it became more important than ever to make memories and to enjoy the other benefits of getting away for a while. Exposure to other cultures Whether in your home country or abroad, you will find lots of people who live differently than you do. By learning about different cultures, you think more deeply about your own traditions, beliefs, and values. This is an important exercise. You gain insight into human psychology, and often feel greater Read more…

Should've, Could've, Would've

Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve is the root of senseless guilt. I… …should’ve pushed him to see the doctor sooner. …would’ve been a better husband if only… …could’ve been more understanding. …should’ve known better. …would’ve had our water tested if… …could’ve driven mom to the doctor that time if only… Refocus All of these things have a way of pulling us back into the past when what we need to be focused on are today and tomorrow. We spent years wondering just what it was that caused my husband’s cancer. This is pretty common. It’s our way of trying to make sense of something so senseless. We’ve picked through his life to try to figure out when the turning point was. He wasn’t a smoker. Was it Read more…

Thankful for the Gift of Gratitude

Gratitude is good for the soul Gratitude is also a choice. You can choose whether to be thankful or not. We’ve all seen examples of people who don’t appreciate what they have, as well as others who have very little, but who are extremely thankful for it. What does this have to do with preventing burnout? It comes down to the parasympathetic nervous system The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The SNS triggers your fight or flight response. Whereas the PNS calms you down. It lowers cortisol levels (stress hormones) and increases oxytocin (feel-good hormones). Research shows that when we feel gratitude, the parasympathetic nervous system is triggered, giving you those calming, feel-good benefits. Write it down! Read more…

Sleep Hygiene

Have you ever heard the term, “sleep hygiene?” Just as oral hygiene is the way you care for your mouth and teeth, sleep hygiene is the collection of practices and habits dealing with your sleeping life. They are extremely important, since approximately one-third of your life is spent, asleep. Some people sleep a bit more, and others, less. The key is to feel rested when you wake up. If you don’t, it’s likely that you have poor sleep hygiene. Many wearable activity trackers, such as certain models of the Fitbit, are able to track your sleep and give you a good idea of how much you sleep and what the quality of that sleep is. Temperature. Like Goldilocks, you don’t want to too hot or Read more…

Respite Care

Caregiving is too big for one person to do alone. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what most caregivers try to do, at first. This is especially a problem when you are caring for a spouse with cancer or other chronic illness. In the past, it might have always been the two of you working as a team. You probably think that’s how this is going to work, as well. But, cancer is just too big for one caregiver to handle alone. Respite care can be the perfect weapon your battle with burnout. It really can feel lonely The patient may come home from treatment and go to bed for 8 hours. During that time, you are left to take care of the things you normally do as Read more…

Quit a bad habit

While most people know that smoking, excessive drinking, and illicit drug pose a definite health risk, they are often unaware of the effect that a bad habit can have on their mental well-being. Kick the smoking habit in the ash Each of these activities begins as a way of altering your physical response to stress. For example, in the beginning, nicotine actually reduces stress, feelings of anger, muscle tension, and appetite. The effect is only temporary, though. The more you smoke, the more the nicotine changes your brain. Eventually (often quickly), smoking becomes a habit. As the nicotine in your system is depleted, you experience withdrawal symptoms, reinforcing the habit. These withdrawal symptoms will leave a smoker feeling anxious and stressed. Think before you drink Read more…

Having Pets

I grew up always having pets: Cats, dogs, horses, iguanas and other lizards, even a tarantula that survived over 12 years. My kids, on the other hand, haven’t had the luxury of living in a menagerie of cuddly critters. My two youngest are extremely allergic to nearly anything with fur.  Too much time with the wrong animal and they can wind up in the hospital—it’s happened. Fortunately, we’ve found an animal that no one is allergic to and we all love—gerbils! I was opposed to getting them in the beginning. Now, I’m their #1 fan. There’s good science to back up the benefits of having pets around. Having Pets can help the Elderly We have a neighbor who recently turned 92. She still walks her Read more…

One Thing a Day

Perhaps the number one way I have learned to avoid burnout is by limiting my goals to one thing a day. Of course, I do more than one thing a day, but nothing overwhelming. The Spoon Theory Most people have heard of the Spoon Theory, Christine Miserandino wrote about in her 2003 essay. While it doesn’t fit everyone’s specific situation, it is a great way to visualize what it’s like to live with a chronic health condition. I first learned of this theory when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and then, fibromyalgia. Then, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. It was difficult for him to learn how to cope with his declining energy and health. At the end of each day, he would say Read more…

saying No

One of the most important things you can do to prevent burnout is to say, “No.” Yet, it isn’t always easy. Let’s look at why saying no can be tough, at times. We aren’t used to saying no Most people don’t ease into a cancer diagnosis as you do with exercise. Instead, life is just as normal as can be. You have your routine. Everyone in the family participates in various activities throughout the week and suddenly the rhythm of your life is brought to a screeching halt. On October 24th, 2012, my husband went into the doctor. After feeling the enlarged lymph nodes along Dan’s collar bone, the doctor asked if we had a few hours for him to run some tests. We cleared Read more…

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is one of the latest buzzwords, but it is an important concept. Andy Puddicombe gave a wonderful TED Talk about mindfulness in 2012. It’s called All it takes is 10 Mindful Minutes. In it, he dispels some common mindfulness myths. For example, mindful meditation is not emptying the mind. Instead, you are looking for balance, relaxed focus. How can we use mindfulness to listen to what’s happening within our own minds and bodies, so that we can be aware of any problems that are arising? Let me give you an example of the benefit of these 10 minutes. I have a toothache I’ve had a toothache for a while now. I have a long history of dental problems rooted in TMJ. I grind my Read more…

listening to others

As a caregiver, it’s easy to get caught up in your own problems and miss seeing someone else’s. That’s a trap you don’t want to fall into. It’s just an invitation to your own personal pity party.  Sure, you need to talk to people about what’s happening, but there comes a time when you’ve talked too much. Then it’s time to listen. One of the easiest ways to encourage a friend is by listening. Ask them how they are doing. How is their family? It’s likely that they have something difficult happening in their life, as well, and could use a listening ear. Often people hesitate to share their troubles It’s common for people to feel uncomfortable sharing the difficult things they are going through. Read more…

Seeing A therapist

This is also one of those posts that I need to read as much as anyone. Like most caregivers, I have a busy schedule. So, often self-care gets pushed to the sidelines. That includes seeing a therapist. Yet, seeing a therapist can be the key to self-care. A therapist is a great accountability partner. They can challenge you from an unbiased point-of-view. How seeing a Therapist increases accountability I discovered this benefit on accident. One day, I was telling my therapist about how much I missed going to church. It was my own fault. Dan was sick and I was just being lazy. It was easier to stay home than to leave him to go and worship God. Then, at the end of our session, Read more…

Journal

As a writer, keeping a journal has always come naturally to me. I first wrote in a journal, after reading The Diary of a Young Girl by Ann Frank. I was touched by how she had one place to turn to when she needed to express her deepest held feelings, longings, and fears.  She was living in a small space with a lot of people and yet, the safest place for her thoughts was in the pages of her diary. Different ways to journal Since then, I’ve always had a journal of some sort. Although, the way I use them has varied. As a young girl, like Ann Frank, I chose to write down my dreams. Which boy did I have a crush on? How Read more…

Visualization

Let’s do a visualization exercise: Imagine you are on a beach, relaxing in a chez lounge. The sun is shining in a bright blue sky, warming your body from top to toes. You adjust the umbrella to keep the glare off of the pages of the book you’ve been enjoying. Without a care in the world, you reach for the ice cold glass of lemonade that’s sitting next to you on a small table. The sweet, tart drink refreshes you from the inside out. You can hear the ocean crashing against the rocks in the distance. Closer, you hear the lapping of the water as it combs the sand clean with each wave. The seagulls seem to whistle to one another as they swoop and Read more…

Hug Someone you Love

I’m not a very physically affectionate person, but there are definitely times when a hug is the best medicine. There are plenty of reasons why you should hug someone on a regular basis. Reminders of Childhood Hugging someone harkens back to the safety of being a child in the loving arms of a parent or grandparent. When you feel as though one more thing will be one thing too much, and burn out is approaching, taking the time to hug someone you trust can make a tremendous difference. It can also open the door to a more intimate and transparent conversation about how you are feeling and what you need to get through this time. Hug someone to reassure both of you that your relationship Read more…

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