“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.” ― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
How in the heck am I supposed to find any peace in doing laundry? That’s ridiculous! It really is and it took me a while to embrace it. I started being responsible for chores as my mom was divorced and having to work full time outside of the home and teaching me to help out with chores meant I learned early how to “keep house”, and as with many of us we have come to see our house chores as torture; attaching much resistance and resentment to what is a necessity.
Just the mere thought of the days chores can bring a sense of being overwhelmed:
Clean up spill someone made
Drive kids to school or take to the bus stop
Pick up trash and toys in the yard on the way in
Put hubby’s shoes in the garage again
Pick up cups and bowls from hubby’s favorite place to drop off by the door
Pick up dishes on the coffee table and put into the kitchen
Clear the dining room table
Clean Dishes or leave til lunch…well I could just do them all at dinner
Feed and water dogs
How in the heck are we going to enjoy doing any of that? Just getting through the clearing of the tables part is a challenge because the nagging pull of sitting down to read, catch a morning nap, get on social media or just watch a show to let the day just pass us by. The obligations many of us have to our loved ones doesn’t stop at getting them fed breakfast and supplements, it entails changing diapers, assembling feeding tubes, lifting from the bed to the wheel chair and then to the table and hopefully during that whole process there isn’t a bit of resistance from our loved one. That would be on a perfect day. A day in the life of a real mental health caregiver could mean :
Wake up after only 3 hours of sleep because loved one had a rough night
Stumble to the bathroom take care of our ritual eliminations for the morning, and throw water on our face
Make the journey down the hall to the kitchen and fix a pot of coffee
Make our way down the hall to check on loved ones
Back to the kitchen to cook breakfast they may or may not eat that morning
Have a debate about brushing teeth and bathing
Have argument about always being in their business and them knowing how to brush their teeth and bathe
Make phone calls to doctors for prescriptions or appointment availability or a new specialist needed
The list is unique to each caregiver and so are the demand schedules for our loved ones. What remains consistent however across the board is we all have chores that must be done throughout our day and with all of the other obligations they cause us a great deal of stress sometimes. Very few of us have the ability to hire someone to take over those duties for us, even though we dream daily of being rescued by our “fairy house keeper”. Just the thought of being told there is a way to get through our chores using mindfulness sounds like another chore and it’s easy to discount the benefits of practicing mindfulness while doing our chores.
When we are going about our morning what is happening around us? Are we contributing to our own madness? Sometimes the fan over the stove is going, the television, ceiling fan, all of the lights in the house are on, the dog(s) are running around through the house, the kids are screaming, our mates talking to us, phone notifications are going off, and to top it off our thoughts are reminding us of all we should be doing and have to be doing for the day.
It’s surprising how much environmental noise contributes to our stress in our homes. Turning off unnecessary electronics in the morning, using natural light from outside as much as possible, reducing the volume on the television or radio can have a tremendous effect not just on you but on your loved one as well. Reducing stimuli helps to calm the stress and reduce the stimulation of negative symptoms for our love ones.
Once all of those things are gone listen. Listen to the way your feet sound on the floor, listen to your child's voice, somewhere someone desires to hear those noises, you ears are working. Listen to your breath. Is it rushed? Are you panting? Slow down your breathing. Listen to your breathing. Listen to the way your blouse or shirt rustles when you move your arm. Listen to the chair being pulled out from the table. Listen to the chopping when you cut veggies. Listen to the fridge as you open the door, the humming of the motor in the background as you are cooking. There are subtleties around us we miss as we rush through our day.
What is the temperature in our home? Is it too cold when we wake up? Is it too warm? Investing in a thermostat that allows us to program times and temperature changes can help our mood tremendously. If we are unable to adjust the thermostat automatically then adjusting the amount of clothing we wear can help to change how we feel. Adding warm socks and a sweater can create a sensation of warmth or waiting until the last minute to put our shirt or blouse on before leaving the house. Try hanging your dress or shirt by the door and put them on as you leave the house.
When you touch your mate or your child to help with clothing or dust away lint do you take the time to actually feel your hand on their face? Do you hold your hand there and experience the warmth of their skin, softness or the firmness of their shoulder, arm or thigh? When you give out kisses for the morning do you feel your lips against their skin or is it a “drive by peck”? Take the time to enjoy and experience the touch and feel of loved ones and the items in your home, you may notice some things you hadn’t before like you haven’t kissed your mate goodbye in the morning in a long time. You haven’t been giving out hugs to your children before they leave, or forgotten what they smell like when you press your nose against them. You may notice you need more pleasant textures in your home rugs or fluffier pillows.
When doing laundry take a moment to appreciate your having clothes to wash, a washer and dryer or the money to do your laundry. Look at and feel your clothing as you fold the clothes feel the texture of them. When I first began the mindfulness exercise with my laundry I noticed I needed to put more color back into my clothing, I noticed I wanted more natural fibers, I wanted softer clothing, I wanted to change my fabric softener all so that I could experience more while doing my laundry.
There are so many times we can rush through our morning scoffing down our food in an effort to gain a few more minutes. Burning our lips and tongues with too hot coffee trying to get the morning fix quicker and we don’t get an opportunity to enjoy any of it. When we are going throughout our day being mindful of what we are eating, the texture, the taste, the aroma, and the temperature are all ways to be mindful. How do we feel when we are eating? You may notice you are always crunching or not eating enough veggies. There are so many ways to adjust our eating as we are more mindful of how we feel while eating and drinking.
What are we smelling? Right now what are you smelling? Nothing? What would you like to smell more often? Sometimes smells can set off a pleasant experience and other times they can upset our day. Before bed try lighting a smell that is comforting to you and lingers so that when you are going to sleep you have a relaxed state and can also enjoy it in the morning. You can light your favorite candle in the morning or spray your favorite scent in the room. There are infusers that can be used as well. Being mindful of smells that are too stimulating and potentially cause irritation or agitation can reduce stress for you’re and your loved one. You would be surprised the amount of change you will notice once you start practicing mindfulness and making adjustments to make your environments more pleasant.
How are you feeling? Why? I find asking this question throughout my day helps me to stay centered and focused. Am I feeling good? Why? Am I feeling bad? Why? When we take inventory and make assessments it helps us to be in tune with our minds and bodies. Sometimes we can feel sensations like hunger and it’s really thirst. Drinking water first and waiting 30 minutes to see if the sensation goes away is sometimes a good indicator of which we are.
Sometimes our clothes can be too binding, our feet may need to be put up to relax for a moment. We may need to take a seat in a quiet space and just be for a moment.
Make time for Mindful Moments
Creating times in our daily schedule for us to have a mindful moment is a good idea. If you are a full time employed caregiver it’s a good idea to schedule some time for mediation during your lunch time or mindfulness during your lunch time. If you have limited time like only 30 minutes for lunch then squeeze 5 to 10 minutes in there for being quiet. It may not seem like enough time but close your eyes, and put your earphones in or go find a place with the least amount of stimuli and just sit still doing nothing.
We must be deliberate about our time to decompress it is important to our very existence. Our self care must always be our priority.
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