Self Care…It’s all about Balance…

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How Well Do You Maintain Balance?

By Chanelle 

If trying to maintain balance in your life makes you feel like a tightrope walker, you’re not alone. Most of us have so many demands on our time and energy, life can feel like a three-ring circus. Take this quiz to see how well you are meeting responsibilities, while also recognizing and fulfilling personal needs and wants.

True False

______   ______   1. The only way I can successfully manage my life is to take care of myself physically and emotionally.

______   ______  2. Nurturing myself enlarges my capacity to help others.

______   ______  3. I eat healthfully and exercise regularly.

______   ______  4. I get check-ups, go to the dentist, and take preventative precautions.

______   ______ 5. I set aside personal, quiet time for myself, whether I’m meditating or simply letting my thoughts drift.

______   ______ 6. I experience the gifts of each season: ice skating, sledding, bundled-up beach walks; gardening, hiking, more time outside; camping, swimming, barbeques; harvesting the bounty, gathering wood, spending more time inside.

______   ______  7. Creativity nurtures me, too. I do what I love, whether that’s cooking, drawing, painting, writing, dancing, singing or another creative pursuit.

______   ______ 8. Reaching out to others enriches my life. I spend quality time with family and friends.

______   ______ 9. Contributing to the world provides connection and purpose, so I give my time, energy and experience where it is most useful.

______   ______10. I notice and heed the emotional signals that tell me I’m out of balance: irritability, overwhelm, resentment.

______   ______ 11. If I feel that I’m catching a cold, I realize I may have stressed my immune system with overactivity, so I stop and take care of myself.

______   ______12. When I need or want to, I say no to requests for my time.

______   ______13. I listen to and honor the requests my body makes for such things as a nap, a walk, green vegetables, hot soup.

______   ______ 14. If I have something planned for myself, I don’t just toss that aside when someone makes a request of me.

______   ______15. I’m busy, but I find time to do the things I want to do.

______   ______ 16. I’m happy. I regularly experience well-being, contentment, even joy.

If you answered false more often than true, you may want to take a look at the questions to which you answered false and see if you can incorporate something of its message into your life. Self care is ALL about Balance. Please let me know how I can support you with your self care balancing act.

.hike with Shirley

Author’s content used with permission, © Claire Communications

It’s Thankful Thursday…How do YOU practice Gratitude?

Accessing the Power of Gratitude

by CHANELLE 

The practice of gratitude as a tool for happiness has been in the mainstream for years. Long-term studies support gratitude’s effectiveness, suggesting that a positive, appreciative attitude contributes to greater success in work, greater health, peak performance in sports and business, a higher sense of well-being, and a faster rate of recovery from surgery.

But while we may acknowledge gratitude’s many benefits, it still can be difficult to sustain. So many of us are trained to notice what is broken, undone or lacking in our lives. And for gratitude to meet its full healing potential in our lives, it needs to become more than just a Thanksgiving word. We have to learn a new way of looking at things, a new habit. And that can take some time.

That’s why practicing gratitude makes so much sense. When we practice giving thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing.

Remember that gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are whitewashed or ignored. It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention. Pain and injustice exist in this world, but when we focus on the gifts of life, we gain a feeling of well-being. Gratitude balances us and gives us hope.

There are many things to be grateful for: colorful autumn leaves, legs that work, friends who listen and really hear, chocolate, fresh eggs, warm jackets, tomatoes, the ability to read, roses, our health, butterflies. What’s on your list?

Some Ways to Practice Gratitude

  • Keep a gratitude journal in which you list things for which you are thankful. You can make daily, weekly or monthly lists. Greater frequency may be better for creating a new habit, but just keeping that journal where you can see it will remind you to think in a grateful way.
  • Make a gratitude collage by drawing or pasting pictures.
  • Practice gratitude around the dinner table or make it part of your nighttime routine.
  • Make a game of finding the hidden blessing in a challenging situation. You all know this is one of my favorites that I learned from my dear little friend, Pollyanna…The Glad Game.
  • When you feel like complaining, make a gratitude list instead. You may be amazed by how much better you feel.
  • Notice how gratitude is impacting your life. Write about it, sing about it, express thanks for gratitude.

As you practice, an inner shift begins to occur, and you may be delighted to discover how content and hopeful you are feeling. That sense of fulfillment is gratitude at work.

Thank you for being part of my community and my life!!!!

 

 

Author’s content used with permission, © Claire Communications

Self Care tip from a Lifelong Tree hugger – Happy Arbor Day

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter. — Rachel Carson

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Greetings fellow wanderers!

Happy national Arbor Day this Friday (though it was celebrated in Washington state a couple of weeks ago).

As someone who feels most at home in the forest and among trees, and has ever since I can remember, I wanted to share a Top Tip for Self Care that relates to trees. Get out and wander among the trees this week. I promise you’ll feel better and you’ll be contributing to your physical, emotional and spiritual self care.

Most of us know that trees are life giving. They take in carbon dioxide and transform it into oxygen. They provide shade, housing, heat, medications…but did you also know that just being around trees, especially a lot of trees is healing in other ways, including lowering stress and anxiety levels?

There was a study done by researchers at the University of Illinois studied a large housing development comprising 28 tower blocks and found that those residents who lived with trees nearby socialized with their neighbors more, felt safer and suffered 52 per cent fewer crimes. They felt emotionally and physically healthier than those in ‘treeless’ blocks.

Some doctors are even prescribing walks in the forest and volunteering for conservation organizations for their patients suffering from chronic stress and anxiety instead of medication.

By surrounding ourselves with trees, our breathing becomes deeper…our senses are satiated.  We feel more at peace and grounded. In 2004, Japan’s National Land Afforestation Promotion Organisation conducted an experiment and discovered that a forest stroll had beneficial effects on blood pressure, heart rate and the immune system. They also found that people who just looked at a forest view for 20 minutes had a 13 per cent lower concentration of the stress hormone cortisol.

Walking and spending time among the trees promotes lower stress and anxiety levels and a better overall sense of well-being. I hope you take some time among the trees this week. I know I will.

Happy Wanderings this week!

-Chanelle

hike with Shirley

What would it take for you to stay?

A Transformative question leading to that “Aha” moment and response.

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“When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.” ― Joseph Campbell
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Greetings, Fellow Wanderers!
Isn’t it amazing how our perspectives change as our life circumstances change?
I had been looking for work in my small community, with little luck, until just recently. Because I had such disappointing results, I expanded my search statewide, with my husband’s support, and was having much better luck finding opportunities that matched my career experience and what I thought we needed. As I progressed through the selection process of two jobs in particular, it became very clear to me that while I loved the job prospects AND they were right in line with my career trajectory, it was going to separate me from my husband and family and that wasn’t sitting well at all.
The stress (financial challenges, stress that comes with looking for work and the idea that we would be separated) had also been catching up…I had been sick for weeks, not sleeping, dark circles, etc. When I met with a friend and colleague for coffee (who had also given me a fabulous reference), I shared everything with her – the job, the reason for looking elsewhere and my desire to stay along with the reasons why. After listening, she asked a question that up until that point I hadn’t really asked myself.
“What would it take for you to stay?”
Stay?
Though I am not sure why, I have found it difficult to settle throughout my life. Perhaps because we moved so much when I was young (I think I have lived at around 45 different addresses and we weren’t even a military family). I have lived in three states on multiple occasions and abroad in Ireland. Even since returning from Ireland, I have wandered…from Western Washington to California, back to Oregon, to Florida (though I didn’t stay there) back to Oregon and then to Eastern Washington.
It’s not just places I couldn’t settle in.
I used to joke that I have had almost every type of legal job in the world (fast food, high-end restaurant server, bartender, retail clothing sales, jewelry sales, image consultant, car sales, administrative office manager, legal secretary, housekeeper, teacher, children’s support therapist, non-profit organization director). A number of years ago, after I had been in one position with a company for about two years, my mom asked me if I was looking for another job. When I told her that I wasn’t, she seemed surprised. I asked the reason behind her query and she simply said she had never known me to stay in one job for more than two years…At that point, she was right. I hadn’t. I ended up staying with that firm for four years and left only when I was in my senior year of college taking both day and night classes to finish my degree.
Her question started me thinking though.
What was it about me that was so different from nearly everyone else I knew? Why was I compelled to change jobs every couple of years, move to different states and countries and always keep a bag packed? A sense of adventure? A love of learning? An understanding that the world is a truly amazing place full of incredible people worth getting to know? Fear of one day regretting NOT experiencing life to its fullest?
I think the answer is yes.
As most of you know, in 1999, I moved to Ireland where I lived very happily and contentedly for several years. For the first time in my life (outside of my years at Camp Killoqua), I felt as if I had found my home. Although I wanted to stay, I couldn’t.
I moved back to the US in 2007 because I felt like I was needed here and I wanted to spend a little time with my aging relatives before they passed on. Unfortunately, like many returning emigrants all over the world, when I came back to the US, I was lost. I didn’t feel I could be ‘me’ and I couldn’t settle. Within 8 months, I had a plane ticket and job back in Ireland with my old agency. However, the day before I left, I knew I couldn’t go back…not to live…not at that time. Whether I wanted to admit it or not and whether I felt fully comfortable or not, I was supposed to be back in Everett, Washington with my mom and near the rest of my family.
It was the right decision.
Within just a few short years, my great-aunt passed away, two years later, my beloved grandma died and then the following year my mom was diagnosed with dementia after several years of declining health.
And now…life circumstances are a little different. Wandering for the sake of it is no longer an option. Since 2012, my mom’s condition has progressed dramatically. Just living a few hours drive from her occasionally poses challenges. Then, in 2015, I married an amazing man and became part of his family too. I can’t and don’t want to just go traipsing around everywhere without them. Our son is doing well in school, academically, socially and emotionally. He is one of the most resilient, well-adjusted teenagers I have ever known. What parent wants to mess with that if they don’t have to?  However, in order to stay where we are, we need a certain level of consistent income. Instead of asking questions like, “what do we want to do?” or “where do we want to be?” The question became, “what do we need?” Do we need me to work in my field bringing in the same level of income that I have in the past? Do we just need me to bring in a full-time income at a level that is liveable here? OR…something else altogether?
That brings me to the quote by Joseph Campbell. It’s not that I was thinking of my self-preservation or that my consciousness has undergone a heroic transformation. It’s just that once I started looking at our circumstances from the perspective of a parent, caregiver  and member of a family first, the answer to the question was clear.
My friend’s question was a gift from God. It was the blessing I needed at just the right moment. All I needed to receive it was to stop, take my ego out of the equation and allow myself to be vulnerable. I had to let go of the outcome, and be open to any possibility. The real challenge seemed to be removing my ego and being vulnerable…now there’s a surprise. 🙂
What did I need to stay?  A full-time job in Okanogan that allows me to care for my family AND contribute to my local community. Once I said it out loud, I knew it was true. It was my “AHA moment.” That is what we need as a family. THAT is what we got…last Thursday…I am delighted, honored and so full of thanks to say that I will be working with a local law firm as their receptionist and legal secretary beginning tomorrow. I am SO excited and so grateful.
Does this mean there will be no more wanders. No. I know I am not finished traveling the world, but my perspectives have changed. I have found that I value the stability I have in my life now, so traveling, when we do it, will look different.
Hmmm…could it be that I am finally on the way to becoming more “intentional?”
We’ll see. In the meantime, thank you for sharing this amazing journey, friends!
Happy Wanderings.
-Chanelle

Confessions of a Chronic Caregiver

Caregivers give care to others so that those others may live and thrive; but many of us find it difficult to accept care in return or allow ourselves the time and grace to give it to ourselves even though we know how necessary self-care is.

You are a caregiver. You care for your spouse, your children, your grandchildren and your parents. You may be a professional caregiver, caring for someone else’s family members because they are not in a position to do so. Sometimes this role was assumed by choice and sometimes, it feels more like a heavy responsibility placed upon you, especially when you look at how much they depend on you.

You give of yourself everyday freely, sacrificing your wants, your needs and your desires (sometimes as simple as a shower or a walk by yourself for half an hour) to care for those who are counting on you. Isolation sets in too. You miss your friends – every one is so busy  caring for their own families or for those few that aren’t, they’re just not sure what to talk about when they see you. It’s hard to get out and be social because you have responsibilities…you’re needed where you are. Sometimes they seem to notice and appreciate all you do, but most of the time they don’t or can’t.

Then there’s the Caregiver guilt. You feel guilty for people to notice how much you do sometimes, for wanting that time to yourself or lashing out when the stress becomes overwhelming. You feel guilty if your loved one or client gets sick or is somehow hurt physically or emotionally when you weren’t there or weren’t watching closely enough. You feel guilty for all the things that you could have or should have said or done to protect them and in general just throughout your lifetime. Sometimes the guilt is HUGE.

You feel like no one understands. Please know that I do. I too feel the stress, the pain, the worry and the guilt. I also know the joy, the love and the dreams.

My name is Chanelle and I too am a Caregiver.

I have been since I was young. My first care giving responsibilities were for my brother who is just 14 months my junior. I began babysitting other people’s children when I was just 9 years old. Experiences throughout my childhood left me feeling it was my duty to care for my mom and my brother from that time as well.

There have been few times in my life where I felt a bit of escape from that duty and yes, I did use the word ‘escape’ just there. Care giving never felt like a choice when I was young; it felt like a mantle placed upon me so there were times when I felt a need to escape. Each summer I had the opportunity to go to Summer Camp (thanks to the gift of Camp Fire and my grandmother). Camp K gave me the opportunity to be a child, to be safe and have fun. As an adult, I escaped for 8 years to Ireland where I lived and worked and learned that this mantle of Care giving wasn’t something I could really escape from, but needed to gather strength from.

While in Ireland, I advocated for children and their families and learned from my Irish friends how to better care for those we are charged and blessed to care for…including ourselves. I returned home to the US in 2007 not realizing the dramatic changes in store over the next short while.

A child of dementia

In 2012, at the age of 62, my mom was diagnosed with severe dementia. While it felt like it came out of nowhere, when we look back there were signs from before I returned to the US from Ireland. Her increased stress, fear, agitation and inability to do things she had always been able to do should have clued us in. Sadly, not even her doctor was able or willing to see it. Once we knew what was happening, we very quickly got things in place so that my brother and I could help her. I once again found myself in an official care-giving role. That’s when the fear and guilt really set in. I should have seen this coming; I was there. Perhaps I could have recognized the symptoms earlier and we could have done something to stop this disease. I have felt the guilt that comes after being angry with my mom because she had an episode of incontinence in the store…it wasn’t her fault and it really wasn’t mine, but I felt guilty anyway. I have now learned that there is a process for going anywhere and a supply bag comes with me anywhere we go.

A wife and a lucky step-mom.

In 2015, I married a wonderful man with two older children (one age 16 at home and one 24 finishing college). My husband lives with Type 1 Diabetes. For those who don’t know, Type 1 is an autoimmune disease, which my husband acquired as a result of trauma from a surgery. His pancreas no longer works so it can only be managed by Insulin and he wears a pump that provides a continuous drip of insulin. There are days where his health is good. There are other days, when regardless of the level of insulin in his body, his health isn’t so greIn the three years we have been together, we have had three hospital visits and I have learned a HUGE amount about Type 1 Diabetes and learn more all the time. These are the times when I become his caregiver as well.

I am self-employed, volunteer in my community, work hard to care for my family and loved ones and am a passionate advocate for self care for everyone, but especially Caregivers. For if we do not care for ourselves, physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and socially, how can we possibly care for those who need us? I haven’t yet mastered it, but I work on it every day. I pray, try to ear well, host a Facebook Group focused on self-care and am organizing a self-care retreat this spring. Still there are days when I feel overwhelmed and cry. It’s a work in progress…I am a work-in-progress.

Back to YOU.

I share this with you so you know that you’re not alone. I am here to support you in your journey of self-care while you care for others; to remind you that YOU are as important as everyone and everything else in your life. It is vital that you breathe, smile and find time and space in your world to take care of yourself or you’ll soon find yourself unable to give the care you so generously share with everyone now. If you need me, I am here. Please feel free to reach out.

Mom's birthday 2014

Lovingkindness: a self-care message from a friend

Greetings fellow wanderers! Happy 2017.

As many of you know, I have been focusing much of my energies on practicing and encouraging others to practice self care. I even have a special FB group dedicated to just that purpose. I also have been taking part in trainings offered by others who are more experienced at self-care than I am and learning as much as I can…so that I can better care for myself, my family and better support my friends and clients. One of the amazing people I have taken some online training from is Christy Tending, a healer, activist, writer & self-care mentor. Below is the email that I received this morning and I was so inspired, I felt I needed to share it in its entirety with everyone. I hope you enjoy it and it inspires you as much as it did me.    -Chanelle

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Dear Friend,

Lovingkindness, or metta, the a form of Buddhist meditation in which one (silently) sends wishes of wellbeing to oneself and others, can change the world.

Bold statement, I know. But I truly see this form of meditation as an inherently activist practice.  Why?

In this practice, we are confronted with interconnection and our place in what poet Mary Oliver calls, “The family of things.” When we understand inherent interconnection, we understand that our liberation is bound up in others’ liberation.

We are not alone. We are part of an interdependent family.

I cannot be free until you are free.

When we understand that truth, we are compelled to act toward the liberation of all. In short, we can no longer see others as separate from ourselves.

This is where the spiritual and the political dance together.

When I practice lovingkindness, I feel a deep affinity for the person for whom I am practicing. When I wish for others to be well, safe, and at ease, I have some skin in the game. When I extend well-wishes to some, it feels natural to extend those same well-wishes to everyone.

Everyone is someone’s most precious person.

Me. You. My sweetie. The guy who sells me my kombucha. The marginally housed people in our neighborhoods. Even the people with whom we have conflict. And, much as we wish it were otherwise, their liberation is bound up in ours, too.

As the old IWW (International Workers of the World) saying goes, “An injury to one is an injury to all.”

So we send all beings the same lovingkindness.

Because there is no separation.

And if there is no separation, then how do you stop at well-wishes?

When we understand lovingkindness for what it is, something that acknowledges universal belonging and deserving, it’s hard to end with good vibes. (Hint: I’m not here just for good vibes, and I doubt you are, either.)

So we get braver.

We smile at strangers on the street. We greet our neighbors. We adopt animals. We deliver meals. We fund projects that protect the most vulnerable among us. We speak out against oppression. We rise up against oppression.

Lovingkindness practice doesn’t have to end at the edge of our meditation cushions.

If we let it, it might change the whole world.

With care,
Christy

There is nothing like a FB live challenge to put yourself out there and see what you may or may not want to see…

Greetings, Fellow Wanderers!

Thank you to everyone who kindly took time out of their days to watch my FB Live challenge videos this past week and to share your thoughts and feedback. This was a HUGE learning opportunity for me. I don’t normally share a lot of personal information. It isn’t so much because I want to keep anything secret, I just felt that to help others it was better to listen than to talk. This process taught me that I DO have something of value to share and that my difficulty is more in the fear of being seen. Your support and encouragement has been overwhelming and I am truly truly grateful.

In case you missed any of the videos and want to catch up, I have linked them all here for your convenience.

For those just getting to know me – Spotlight Speaker’s Challenge Day 1 video

Let Go! – Spotlight Speaker’s Challenge Day 2 video

I was tracking with you until you said we had to leave our houses – Spotlight Speaker’s Challenge Day 3 video

Spotlight on Success!!! – Spotlight Speaker’s Challenge Day 4 video

Whew! We Made It. – Spotlight Speaker’s Challenge Day 5 video

Well…now its out there (like the opening of the proverbial Pandora’s box). I guess we’ll find out together where we go from here.

Have a wonderful week, fellow Wanderers. Thanks for continuing on this journey with me.

Chanelle