Updated: May 6, 2021
Take care of yourself they say... Are you taking care of yourself? How are you taking care of yourself...UGH...Stop IT! What does that even mean? Everything I read tells you to sleep, exercise, eat green things, meditate, and most importantly go to the doctor for both physical and mental health. I wholeheartedly agree these things are certainly important to the care partner journey, however, it does nothing to help me manage the storms that are happening in my house at any given moment on any given day. I've figured out what does make the difference is the stories we tell ourselves about the things we are experiencing... It's the collective hard moments of the day that make it heavy, hard to deal with and stressful. These are the moments in which we need to have an understanding of what is happening and a realistic strategy to support ourselves. Triggers are the things that cause us to react, both in good ways and in bad ways when our senses are heightened. There's a part of our brain that kicks in, We'll call it our “pinky brain”. It’s primary job is to pay attention when you aren't, so you stay safe and comfortable. For instance, have you ever driven to the store and not remember how you got there, or if you stopped at a stop sign that was along the way? The good news is that your pinky brain WAS paying attention when you weren't and it helped you to arrive safely. I don’t know about you, but I found this to be very comforting as I'm a space monkey most days... As care partners, some of the situations we find ourselves in can be uncomfortable and dangerous to our pinky brains. In an effort to keep us safe and comfortable, we go to “war” so to speak with whatever is hurting us. When our hearts are at war, we no longer have the ability to see people. Instead we see people as objects and become guarded and unable to extend grace most disease processes require. This is where the trouble starts and the very first place we have an opportunity to care for ourselves. When it comes to supporting someone who is affected by a chronic condition, our perception of the situation has to be seen through a different lens to accurately assess the situation and respond with peace in our heart and the ability to extend grace to not only them but ourselves. Dementia is a perfect example....sometimes people living with dementia can say and do things that are not very nice and cause us to justifiably go to war with them in our hearts. The internal tug of war we experience is the disconnect between rational thinking and unexplained feelings. Where is this person who used to want to protect me and beat people up who talked to me like that? The truth is the person is still sitting right in front of you and the thing that neither one of you have any control over (ie. Dementia), is the snake that reached out and bit you...but who pays the price and lives with the consequences of those actions...we both do... Understanding our triggers helps us to recognize the hard moments and allows us to have an alternative story waiting for us. For me the trigger is when my stomach tightens and I feel that tingle on the back of my neck. This is usually the precursor to wanting to verbally or physically lunge at the person. Luckily for me, a divine intervention led me to the 5 Second Rule created by Mel Robbins. The logic is centered around the first 5 seconds following a thought or event. Most of us will pause for the first 5 seconds so our pinky brain can determine if it is safe or dangerous, comfortable or uncomfortable, so we can react or respond accordingly. Just so you know, your pinky brain thinks that getting out of bed is uncomfortable and does not want to do it... Think about it... do any of us generally ever “feel” like getting up the first five seconds we are awake in the morning? The 5 Second Rule allows us to go from our pinky brain to our thinking brain. When I feel my hair tingle on the back of my neck I literally say out loud to myself, 5,4,3,2,1 and waiting for me is the new story of “wow, that dementia is busy today”... In that moment, the Dementia is the problem not the person I love...I go from war to peace...judgement to curiosity....but most importantly I gain the ability to extend the grace we both need in that moment to live with a disease neither one of us has control over. This is not always easy and it takes practice... but think about it... If it cuts down on the time you are emotionally hijacked and at war with the person you support... This is what taking care of ourselves looks like...
We will be discussing this and so much more during Coffee with Krisie Friday Mornings from 7-8am CST on our YouTube Channel
For more information on what's going on here at Embrace, go to: https://www.embracingjourneys.com/upcomingevents and Thanks for Reading!!